The prime minister has called the release of the recordings part of a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at ousting him, saying the press had stooped to unprecedented “persecution, bloodletting and shaming,” according to the AP.
The younger Netanyahu's drunken banter paints another unflattering picture of the family, which has been criticized for being too cozy with ultrarich donors and living a lavish lifestyle at taxpayer expense.
“Speaking of prostitutes, what’s open at this hour?” Yair Netanyahu asks his friends at one point on the recording. “It’s possible the waitresses there go with the flow.”
The largest public outcry has come in response to statements Yair Netanyahu made to the son of Israeli tycoon Kobi Maimon, the AP reported.
“My dad arranged $20 billion for your dad, and you’re whining with me about 400 shekels,” he says, referring to money he borrowed in a strip club.
According to CNN, that conversation was about a proposal to split future natural gas drilling proceeds between private and state companies. Critics blasted it as a sign of corruption.
Benjamin Netanyahu is at the center of two criminal probes that allege fraud, bribery and breach of trust, CNN reported. The prime minister denies any wrongdoing.
His son has nothing to do with policymaking or security arrangements.
Yair Netanyahu said the conversation took place under the influence of alcohol and was full of “nasty things about women and other things that should not have been said.” The statements, he added, “don't represent the person I am, the values I was educated on and what I believe.”
In a statement, a family spokesman told CNN:
“Every parent that watched the report should think how they would react if every false expression of their kids was turned into a headline on Channel 2, and every time they left the house, it was turned into an investigation and every conversation was turned into a hidden recording.”
Yair Netanyahu's actions have sparked international criticism before.
In September, he posted an anti-Semitic cartoon to his Facebook page that suggested that Jews control the United States, according to The Washington Post's Ruth Eglash. The cartoon appeared widely on far-right websites, and was retweeted by David Duke, a Holocaust denier and the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Others in his family have also faced criticism.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, has come under scrutiny for her perceived opulent lifestyle, often being portrayed as a modern-day Marie Antoinette.
As Eglash wrote:
Last year, a former housekeeper at the official residence successfully sued the couple for abusive treatment, winning about $43,735 in damages. During his testimony, Meni Naftali revealed intimate details about Sara Netanyahu’s lifestyle, including her taste for pink champagne and other luxuries.
In 2015, the state comptroller released a report showing excessive spending at the official residence at 2 Balfour St. in Jerusalem. It noted that the Netanyahus had billed taxpayers for 92,781 shekels, or about $24,000, for takeout food in 2011.
In the recording, Yair Netanyahu and his entourage, who were accompanied by a state-funded bodyguard, seem aware of the potential consequences if their conversation became public.
If the guard ever left his job, one of the young men joked, he would have to be killed.