Netanyahu Reaps Consequences Of A Life on Display
Jul. 03, 1996
JERUSALEM (AP) _ First the firing of his children's nanny generated front-page exposes in the tabloids. Now the mysterious appearance of ``John J. Sullivan'' in his U.S. Social Security files is being debated on the floor of parliament.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who broke with tradition by bringing his family into an American-style campaign for prime minister, is reaping the consequences: unprecedented American-style surveillance of the cobwebbed corners of his private life.
On Monday, Israeli tabloids broke the story of The Nanny: 21-year-old Tanya Shaw, who claimed she was fired and tossed out into the street after she burned a pot of vegetable soup.
Shaw has made headlines for three days with reports about Netanyahu's wife, Sarah, who Shaw said was obsessed with cleanliness, had refused to let her vote and was prone to angry outbursts.
The prime minister's office retaliated with a statement accusing Shaw of showing ``indications of acute instability.''
At a news conference Tuesday night, Netanyahu said he wished it would all go away. Asked if he regretted putting his family in the public eye, he said: ``I think those of you who come from America know that you don't have to put your family in the eye of the media. The media is there eyeing you.''
In fact Netanyahu, who has been married three times and publicly acknowledged an extramarital affair, drew comment even before his election for the unusual visibility of his wife and two young sons. Most Israelis would be hard put to identify family members of Netanyahu's predecessor, Shimon Peres, despite Peres' decades in public office.
Netanyahu made his victory appearance with Sarah at his side and announced he would take the family along next week on his first visit as premier to Washington _ complete with a playpen on Israel's version of Air Force One.
Despite his penchant for publicity, Israelis know far less about their new prime minister than past leaders who rose to the top after years in public office. Netanyahu had served only as ambassador to the United Nations and deputy foreign minister.
That has only made post-election reports about him more enticing to the Israeli media.
In a recent article, the Ha'ir chain of weekly newspapers reported that Netanyahu's U.S. Social Security number _ he was educated in the United States and worked there for many years _ had been used under four different names: Benjamin Netanyahu, Benjamin Nitay _ a name Netanyahu has acknowledged using in the States _ John J. Sullivan and John J. Sullivan Jr.
The article claimed Netanyahu's files were sealed in a way done only for employees of the CIA, FBI and Internal Revenue Service.
``Who are you, John J. Sullivan?'' it demanded. ``Is it all the same person? ... Never was the history of an Israeli prime minister so secretive.''
Uri Avnery, a political rival, noted that while Netanyahu says he gave up his U.S. citizenship years ago, as required of Israeli diplomats and legislators, no proof has been made public. ``If he was an American citizen when elected prime minister ... his election is null and void,'' Avnery wrote in the Maariv daily.
On Wednesday, opposition legislator Dalia Itzik made a failed bid to launch an investigation by Israel's parliament, questioning whether Netanyahu worked for the American government.
``Who is our prime minister?'' she asked. ``He who runs such an American campaign cannot prevent questions in the style of the free American press.''
The prime minister's office did not return repeated calls from The Associated Press on Wednesday.
According to the Ha'ir article, Netanyahu spokesman Shai Bazak confirmed the name John J. Sullivan appeared in Netanyahu's file, but said: ``We don't have a clue as to how the name got into the file.''