“I’m an educated woman!” she can be heard shouting at the publicist. “Psychologist! B.-A! M.-A! That’s it!”
“But it says in the first sentence that you’re a psychologist,” the publicist protests, to no avail.
After demanding that the publicist reprimand the reporter, Mrs. Netanyahu screams some more about the reference to her public service obligations. “This prime minister’s wife does public service every day!” she says. “In her professional capacity!”
Mr. Netanyahu spoke up for his wife in a pair of Facebook posts on Sunday, saying that everyone sometimes “gets angry and says a few words that he didn’t mean.” He complained that the news media were ignoring his wife’s many charitable initiatives and trying to use the newly surfaced recording as “a battering ram in the ongoing attempt to overthrow the government.”
Indeed, on the left, the national-security columnist Amir Oren, in Walla News, likened Mrs. Netanyahu to a terrorist in the way she had treated her underlings, and asked whether Mr. Netanyahu was truly unaware of this conduct, had gotten used to it or knew of it but was “indifferent to the woes of others.”
The reaction from ordinary Israelis was feverish, and largely unkind.
On Twitter, some tinkered with Mrs. Netanyahu’s words to render “psychologist” as “psychopath”; one slightly reordered Mr. Netanyahu’s Facebook post to create a hidden message spelling out “Help, she’s crazy.” Someone else imagined a tweet by President Trump, Mr. Netanyahu’s close ally, calling Walla a “dishonest website that refuses to acknowledge that Sara Netanyahu has a BA and MA and that’s it.”
Though this may have been the first recording of Mrs. Netanyahu to come back to haunt her, its publication came just weeks after Israeli television broadcast a tape of the Netanyahus’ son Yair, while he was chauffeured and guarded at state expense, partying in strip clubs, making lewd jokes and asking for cash from the son of a billionaire who had benefited financially from the prime minister’s official actions.
Just how much damage his wife and son have done to Mr. Netanyahu’s political standing is difficult to assess, since he faces scandals of his own.
The police are expected to recommend within months, if not weeks, that he be prosecuted for allegedly receiving illegal gifts, including expensive cigars and champagne. He is also being investigated over an alleged back-room deal with the publisher of Israel’s leading newspaper. And several of his closest associates are said to be facing likely indictment over an even larger scandal, involving a multibillion-dollar purchase of three submarines from Germany.
Mr. Netanyahu insists that he has done nothing wrong and that the investigations will ultimately bear this out.
But Mrs. Netanyahu’s dealings with her aides have helped spawn at least one lasting political problem for her husband: One of the former aides, Meni Naftali, who won about $50,000 in damages over his treatment as the Netanyahus’ housekeeper, has since gone on to lead weekly Saturday night demonstrations in which thousands of Israelis have demanded an end to Mr. Netanyahu’s nine-year reign.