In a special interview with the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara have disclosed some of the private goings-on behind their public lives.
In excerpts of the interview released on Saturday by Israeli daily Haaretz, a reporter for the Bild — considered to be the most widely distributed newspaper in Europe — praised Sara Netanyahu and said that she "appears compassionate, cheerful, spirited. Her blonde hair frames her face, she wears a hint of lip gloss, accompanied by high heels, her handshake is firm. Her eyes sparkle."
The prime minister told the Bild that it was his wife who convinced him to conclude the deal that freed Sgt. 1st Class Gilad Schalit after more than five years in Hamas captivity.
Under the Egyptian- and German-brokered deal with Hamas, Israel agreed to release 1,027 prisoners for Schalit, who had been abducted in June 2006. He returned home in October 2011 after Israel freed 477 prisoners in the first phase of the swap. In the second and final phase of the deal, which took place on Dec. 18, 2011, Israel released 550 prisoners. The deal was considered by many to be the most imbalanced prisoner exchange in Israel's history.
"She [Sara] was the one who told me, think of that boy Gilad Shalit. Think of that boy in that dark dungeon, having no hope, no light. Think of him as if he were our son. Think of him, his mother, his father, and then make the decision," Netanyahu was quoted by Haaretz as telling Bild interviewer Stephanie Bilges.
During the interview, which took place in the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, Sara Netanyahu was quoted as saying she was concerned for her husband's safety.
"I am always worried, especially when he is at a public event outside the country,” she said. “I have lived with this fear for many years, but yes, I am not only worried about him, but also about my children."
Speaking about the passing of her father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, and the time he lived in her home before he passed away, she reportedly said, "I will never be able to understand how people can abandon their parents when they are old and need their help. This is something that I will never accept."
When asked about accusations against her by former employees hired to take care of her and her husband's residence, the prime minister's wife was quoted as saying, "During the 10 years in which my husband was opposition leader and not prime minister, there was not even one single complaint filed from an employee. Don't you think that is strange? Soon after he was re-elected, the accusations started again. For some people it is obviously lucrative and tempting to create lies in the media. Besides, I am an easy target. If they cannot attack my husband, they attack me."
Sara Netanyahu has been the target of ongoing verbal attacks in recent years, with many journalists and officials said to have accused her of being manipulative in governmental issues and less than humane in treating her household employees. However, some feel that she has been the victim of a smear campaign by her husband's rivals and political opponents.