Netanyahu's wife says Israel 'can burn,' later
JERUSALEM (AP) --In audio taped
remarks played on Israel TV Thursday the wife of former Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "this country can burn" and that she and
her husband would leave Israel because he is not appreciated.
Sara Netanyahu later apologized in a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. She made
the comments Monday during a telephone conversation with Shimshon Deri, an
activist in Netanyahu and Sharon's Likud party.
In the phone call, she said, "There are sometimes issues of revenge and personal
conflicts and they don't understand one thing: when the country is in flames, when
there are terror attacks ... there is one person who can save this country," referring
to her husband, who is vying with Sharon for party leadership.
Using Netanyahu's nickname, she said, "Bibi is a leader who is greater than this
entire country, he really is a leader on a national scale. We'll move abroad. This
country can burn. This country can't survive without Bibi. People here will be
Israel and the Palestinians are locked in nearly two years of fighting, during which
Palestinian suicide bombers have killed more than 250 Israelis. Netanyahu has
repeatedly criticized Sharon for failing to bring an end to the attacks, demanding
harsher military measures.
Netanyahu served as Israel's prime minister from 1996-1999, pursuing a hard-line
policy toward the Palestinians. He was defeated in an election by Ehud Barak, a
moderate, whose peace efforts failed. Barak lost an election in February 2001 to
Sharon, a veteran hawk.
Following his defeat, Netanyahu left politics briefly. He returned before the 2001
election, seeking special permission to run for prime minister, though he was not a
member of parliament. The parliament turned him down, and he embarked on a
campaign to unseat Sharon as Likud party leader.
According to Israeli media, Deri used to be a strong Netanyahu backer but the two
had a disagreement. The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported that Deri's lawyer
later demanded she publicly apologize to the Likud party and the citizens of Israel,
the newspaper reported, printing a copy of the letter she sent to Sharon.
"I am sorry for the things I said. I love our country. ... This is my home and like
everyone else I have no other home," the newspaper quoted the letter as saying.