Since becoming an adult, the eldest son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly drawn media criticism for what has been portrayed as a life of privilege at taxpayers’ expense.
Yair Netanyahu, 26, has been described as someone who hobnobs with world leaders and enjoys a state-funded bodyguard, while living at the prime minister’s official residence.
But his recent behavior has now drawn public rebuke from the children of a former Israeli leader, along with threats of a libel suit. It has also revived criticism of the Netanyahu family’s perceived hedonism and sense of entitlement, at a time when the prime minister faces multiple corruption allegations.
Israeli police disclosed Thursday that Netanyahu is suspected of fraud, breach of trust and bribes in a pair of cases, just as his son was being pilloried in the press.
Younger Netanyahu in the tabloids
The younger Netanyahu hit the tabloids last weekend when a neighbor posted an account of how he refused to pick up after the Netanyahu family dog at a public park and then, when confronted, gave the neighbor the finger.
Yair Netanyahu lashed out on Facebook at a website run by a liberal think tank that detailed what it said was his lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense.
In the post, Netanyahu alleged the site is funded by what he claimed are foreign interests, referring indirectly to the dovish New Israel Fund, which he renamed the “Israel Destruction Fund.” He signed the post with emojis of a middle finger and a pile of excrement.
The Times of Israel said Thursday that the Molad organization that runs the site served the younger Netanyahu with a notice of intent to sue. The notice reportedly said that his posts “had no iota of truth to them.”
But perhaps the harshest reactions came from some of the other targets of his post, in which he claimed the children of former Israeli leaders Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert did not come under such scrutiny.
It included an insinuation that one of Olmert’s sons had an “interesting relationship with a Palestinian man” that affected national security.
Olmert’s son Ariel fired back on Facebook, denying he was gay, dismissing the claims as a fabrication and accusing the younger Netanyahu of “racism and homophobia.”
Ariel Olmert added that he works for a living, never slept in the prime minister’s residence and “on principle, try to pick up my dog’s doody.”
His older brother Shaul then chimed in, calling Yair Netanyahu a fascist thug.
Questioned in scandal
Yair Netanyahu has also been questioned, though not as a suspect, about a corruption scandal in which his father was asked by police “under caution” about ties to executives in media, international business and Hollywood.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are said to have received more than $100,000 worth of cigars and liquor from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who reportedly asked Netanyahu to press the U.S. secretary of state in a visa matter.
Australian billionaire James Packer has reportedly lavished Yair with gifts that included extended stays at luxury hotels in Tel Aviv, New York and Aspen, Colorado, as well as the use of his private jet and dozens of tickets for concerts by Packer’s former fiancee, Mariah Carey.
Police are trying to determine whether these constitute bribes, since Packer is reportedly seeking Israeli residency status for tax purposes.
The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, portraying the accusations as a witch hunt against him and his family by a hostile media.