Amidst everything else going on in the world, on Thursday morning we awoke to the earth-shattering news that Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu like to travel abroad with loads of dirty laundry so as to take advantage of foreign dry cleaning services.
Shock and horror gripped the nation.
No, not really. Certainly there was hand-wringing among that fringe of Israeli society obsessed with hating Netanyahu. But most Israelis didn’t bother reading past the “scandalous” headline.
If they had, they would have learned that The Washington Post reported that every time the Netanyahus visit the White House, they bring several suitcases full of soiled clothing. The guest house at the White House provides dry cleaning services, and apparently the Israeli leader and his wife are determined to get their money’s worth. The Post exposé went on to cite several US administration staff as confirming that Benjamin and Sara seem to purposefully travel with loads of dirty laundry, noting that other dignitaries use the dry cleaning service only on the few items they actually wear while visiting.
A follow-up by Israeli media wondered why the Netanyahus would do such a thing given that Israel’s state budget already provides them with unlimited laundry service. Maybe they like the smell of the detergent used by the White House better? For his part, Netanyahu denied the allegation entirely. But honestly, does it even matter?
This is gossip. This isn’t news. But it does serve to demonstrate just how fully journalism has morphed into entertainment. It’s no longer a source of serious information and knowledge. More than anything, the mainstream media is today just another platform for disseminating the kind of throwaway, click-bait content that we all use to kill the extra minutes between doing something productive with our lives.
Let’s say that the Post report is 100 percent accurate. Is what Netanyahu did a little weird? Sure. Is it consequential? No, not at all.
Who, besides those determined to find any little flaw in the prime minister’s character, really cares where he does his laundry?
How is this at all relevant to the governance of the State of Israel?
Obviously, the aim is to paint Bibi and Sara as either rude or eccentric, or both. But if anything besides perfectly polite and considerate behavior were to disqualify one from leadership, then would anyone be fit to hold the office? Let he who has no sin cast the first stone, and all that (though in this case it’s difficult to define the behavior in question as “sin”).
I’m not trying to paint the Netanyahus as perfect. I have my own beefs with some of their antics, some of which are public, and some of which I heard from friends who worked for them. Nor am I putting this particular incident on the same level as the charges of corruption and abuse of power, which if true would indeed be cause to bring down Bibi. But creating a media spectacle and national crisis over the prime minister’s cigar bill, his wife keeping a few shekels returned on recycled champagne bottles, and where they do their laundry–it all stinks of desperation from those frustrated by their inability to democratically remove Netanyahu from office.
Should we desire fully upright behavior from our leaders? Yes. But we must also desire it of ourselves. And how often do we manage to meet that goal? If you answered anything other than “never” then, well, let’s just say that lying is a clear violation of the 10 Commandments.
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one.” Romans 3:10
There are plenty of reasons to support or oppose leaders, all of which have to do with actual governance and policy. The only reason to resort to accusations of petty wrongdoing is to hamstring elected officials, and that is the real threat to our democracy.