Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is scolded over son's romance

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is scolded over son's romance
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, walks through the Congress Center during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Simon Dawson / Bloomberg)

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accustomed to criticism for his political policies, but the latest flap involves something decidedly more personal: his son’s non-Jewish girlfriend.

According to multiple media reports, Netanyahu's son Yair, a 23-year-old student, is dating a young Norwegian woman he met in Israel at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliyah, where both study.

The prime minister himself reportedly discussed this with his Norwegian counterpart, Prime Minister Erna Solberg, during a meeting at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, over the weekend.

Netanyahu is said to have told Solberg of his son's trip to Norway last summer with his girlfriend of several months, Sandra Leikanger.

Not everyone appreciates the romance. Media reports noting that Leikanger is not Jewish sparked the ire of a group of ultranationalist Jews who object to mixed relationships.

Activists from Lehava -- an acronym for "Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land" -- reportedly have condemned the relationship and condemned Netanyahu for supporting it. The group warns against the dire outcome of mixed relationships, mostly between Jewish women and Arab men. It runs a hotline for people seeking to extricate Jewish girls from such ties.

According to Israeli media, the group's activists took a low blow at Netanyahu, telling him: "Your father is turning in his grave." The prime minister's father, renowned historian Ben-Zion Netanyahu, died two years ago at age 102.

Reportedly, a number of rabbis sought to impress upon the prime minister that it was inappropriate to "boast before gentiles of his son consorting with a non-Jewish woman."

The incident lands the Netanyahus in the company of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, whose relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio met with a similar response from the same circles. Those two are no longer together.

Sobelman is a special correspondent.