Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair struggles in his dad’s spotlight, like many children of world leaders
Yair Netanyahu, in a photo on his Facebook account, which was temporarily suspend this week. (Facebook )
It must be difficult for the adult kids of world leaders to make their own path while their parent looms large on the international stage.
Some have chosen to stay out of the spotlight while their parents were in office: that’s the case in Australia in recent times — Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have children who have expressed contrary political opinions, just not when Dad was in the PM’s office.
Tony Abbott celebrates his 2013 election win with wife Margie and their three daughters. (ABC: John Donegan)
Others have been more hands-on with their parent’s work.
In the US, the implication of Don Trump Jr in the Mueller investigation will probably hurt his dad. He and brother Eric have also caused controversy for hunting and killing of African animals. Ivanka’s use of a personal email for her White House work also caused quite a stir.
But for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the antics of his son are becoming a problem that some pundits say could affect his re-election.
Donald Trump with his children Eric, Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka in 2014. (Reuters: Gary Cameron)
Facebook ban for ‘hate speech’
Yair Netanyahu is 27 years old and lives at home — the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
He’s got official security and a personal driver, despite not having an official government role.
He also has a penchant for letting loose online — his latest scandal is sharing his view on Facebook calling for the deaths of Israeli soldiers to be avenged and adding he hoped all Muslims would leave Israel. He finished off by stating “Do you know where there are no terror attacks? In Iceland and Japan. Coincidentally there’s also no Muslim population there.”
Facebook banned him for 24 hours.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “Yair Netanyahu posted several posts which included hate speech — this clearly violates our community standards. Due to that, this content was removed from our platform, as we would do for anyone posting similar content about any protected characteristic. Following this, Yair Netanyahu decided to share a screen shot of a removed post and called people to share it — which is the same as writing the hate speech all over again.”
He hit back at Facebook, going on Twitter to call them “Thought Police”.
His father has declined to comment so far.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays with his sons Yair, left, and Avner at the Western Wall in 2013. (AP: Uriel Sinai)
A history of outspokenness
Just the week before Yair Netanyahu was calling Israel’s Chief of Police “a cross between Tony Soprano and Rain Man”. That’s the man who investigated and found his father should stand trial for alleged corruption, that Yair Netanyahu compared to a mobster with autism.
Only when his son called left-wing NGOs and politician’s “traitors” did Benjamin Netanyahu put his foot down and denounce the comment.
Even a judge took Yair to task after he dropped the f-bomb in a libel case hearing.
Surprisingly this is not a recent outburst. In September 2017 Yair Netanyahu posted an anti-Semitic cartoon linking various Israeli and Jewish opponents of his father – including billionaire George Soros.
The neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer called him “the best Jew” over the incident.
The Jerusalem Post carried Opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s response that: “Every Jew should feel revulsion and shame this cartoon, [in the style of] the pages of [Nazi newspaper] Der Stürmer, that came out of the home of the prime minister and embraced by antisemites. Delete it, apologise, speak out against it.”
Then there was the time an Israeli TV station broadcast a drunk PM’s son — provoking headlines such as “Yair Netanyahu’s night of debauchery revealed in bombshell recordings”.
A secret audio recording captured him jokingly asking for money from a billionaire’s son whose father got a gas deal from the PM — “Bro, you have to spot me. My dad made an awesome deal for your dad, bro. He fought, fought in the Knesset for this, bro”.
Yair’s brother Avner, 23, who now works in a cafe after serving as a soldier, is more publicity-shy.
Struggle with the spotlight
Yair is far from the only offspring of PMs and presidents to cause difficulty for their parents.
President George W Bush’s twins Jenna and Barbara — who were in their later teens when their father took office — were described as a Secret Service nightmare.
In 2001 they were charged with possessing alcohol under-age, in the presence of their Secret Service detail, at the age of 19. The legal drinking age in Texas is 21.
A much more extreme example are the sons of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi — Hannibal Gaddafi partied hard in Europe before his dad’s downfall and is now in jail in Lebanon. It’s better than the fate of three of his brothers who died or were disappeared during the revolution. Hannibal was jailed for “insulting” the Lebanese judiciary.
Yair Netanyahu, pictured with his mother Sarah and his father Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in May 1997, a year after his father was elected leader. (Reuters)
‘A regular person with opinions’
With elections next year, Israeli newspaper Haaretz has gone as far as publishing an opinion piece arguing that “Netanyahu’s son might be his downfall”.
When Yair Netanyahu made damaging comments earlier this year, former Israeli ambassador — a man with 27 years in Israel’s diplomatic service — Daniel Shek declared Yair should “keep the level of debate at a slightly higher level of class”.
He told Israel’s 24 News channel, “whether he likes it or not he is a public figure”.
But Yair, who was five when his father became Prime Minister, doesn’t really have a choice to be in the spotlight.
“He’s just a regular person with opinions, like anyone else, who just happens to be the Prime Minister’s son,” a longtime friend told The Jerusalem Post in September.
“People go after him, because they don’t like his dad. I don’t think he would choose this. It’s not easy.”