Israel's got 99 problems. Are you one of them?


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press, as Israel displayed advanced rockets unloaded from the Panamanian-flagged Klos-C vessel. The vessel was allegedly transporting arms from Iran to Gaza.


Jack Guez

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is having a bad week. Problems are literally dropping from the sky — in the case of the missiles in Southern Israel — but they’re also popping up in Netanyahu’s own household, in his scandal-ridden cabinet, and in the crucial ties between Jerusalem and Washington. Here’s the comprehensive list of everything that Israel, but in particular Netanyahu, has to worry about right now.

1. His wife is in hot water — again

Meni Naftali, the former chief steward of Netanyahu's official residence, has filed a lawsuit against the first couple, claiming exploitation and a severe abridgement of his basic rights. Asking for over a million dollars, Naftali claims, "The Netanyahu family treated me in a patronizing and condescending way, the worst part being the uncontrollable tongue-lashings by the prime minister's wife, Sara Netanyahu." The alleged abuse includes 3 a.m. screaming fits directed against Naftali by Mrs. Netanyahu — once again dubbed "Israel's Marie Antoinette."

2. His ministers are in hot water — again

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon was forced to apologize to the US government for the second time in two months. In January, speaking at a private forum he claimed not to know was being recorded, Ya'alon criticized Secretary of State John Kerry for being “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic.” On Monday, Ya'alon, who seems blissfully unaware that his position does not afford anything resembling privacy, once again spoke to a closed forum, members of which wasted no time in leaking his comments that the American position vis-à-vis Iran "is weak." In his latest apology, Ya'alon said he had "no intention to damage Israel-US relations."

3. Israel’s northern border is a mess

Israel may be unable to keep away from the Syrian civil war, now in its fourth year, which crept significantly closer this week. Four Israeli soldiers were wounded on Tuesday when a bomb hit their jeep near the Syrian border, in the Golan Heights. Early Wednesday, Israel bombed several Syrian military targets, killing one and wounding at least seven. The prime minister declared: Israel's "policy is clear. We hurt those who hurt us." Israeli soldiers have started training to be ready in the event of an escalation.

4. Israel’s southern border is a mess

In the past week, Israel has been hit by close to a hundred missiles launched from Gaza. The barrage was the first significant breach of the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel that Egypt brokered 16 months ago, and came less than a week after Israel intercepted the Klos C, a ship carrying hundreds of Syrian-made, Iranian-sold missiles on a circuitous course to Gaza — where extremist groups from Hamas to Islamic Jihad were battling for the spoils.

5. Israel’s other southern border, with Egypt's Sinai peninsula, is a mess

With the Sinai increasingly lawless and, like Gaza, overrun by competing extremist factions, Israel found itself pleading this week with Washington not to cancel the delivery of 10 Apache helicopters that are part of American aid to Egypt. Israel doesn’t want anything to get in the way of the Egyptian military’s efforts to subdue Islamic militants in the Sinai.

6. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas got a long-sought White House visit

While in DC, Abbas reiterated Palestine's adamant refusal to accept Israel's demand it be recognized as a "Jewish State," and threatened once again, if negotiations fail, to turn to international organizations for recognition. (In further ministerial trouble, Israel's deputy minister of defense, Danny Danon, announced this week he will resign if the next planned step of the peace process actually takes place: a release of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for next week.)

7. Israel’s contested capital city is heating up

There have been three clashes this week following visits of right-wing Israeli parliamentarians to the Temple Mount — or, as Muslims call it, the Esplanade of the Mosques. The visits to the site held as sacred by Jews and Muslims are entirely legal, but are viewed as a provocation by Palestinian Jerusalemites. 

8. Scandals are erupting left, right and center...

... and each in its own way is threatening Netanyahu's fragile political coalition. In one, the former army spokesman and several senior aides to the IDF's then-chief of staff are accused of spying on the minister of defense at the time. In another, a former prime minster and erstwhile Netanyahu ally, Ehud Olbert, is on trial for corruption. In yet another, the Israeli chief rabbinate, a quasi-independent government-funded body, faces an existential crisis due to its hard-line refusal to grant foreign-born converts the status of Jews. American Jews faced with this edict are not pleased.

9. You know that missing Malaysian plane?

MH370 is giving Israel the jitters — big time. Israel has a bitter history with airplane hijackings. Since the disappearance of the Malaysian flight, it is demanding that foreign flights identify themselves earlier than usual, with more specific detail than before, when approaching Israeli airspace. 

The good news? Quinoa has been deemed Kosher for Passover. Yes. Really.