The Endless Saga of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Taxpayer-Funded Hair

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara are under fire, not for the first time, for spending a hefty amount of taxpayer dollars ($540,000, to be exact) on a recent five day trip to the UN in New York, The Guardian reports. This included $1,600 for hairstyling and $1,750 for makeup, numbers that do not cover Sara Netanyahu’s expenses.

Netanyahu, not unlike another wall-friendly, ethno-nationalistic speech suppressor, appears to be in possession of a possibly not-entirely-real combover; Bibi’s mane, although somewhat more dignified than the pile of dirty straw dipped in chicken tikka masala that we have become accustomed to over in the U.S., is rigidly kept, with a pile of long—too long—straight silver strands that gently fold across his head to create the illusion of ageless, militaristic proportionality. Although the upkeep of said hair is nowhere near the worst cost Netanyahu has inflicted upon the region, it is worth underscoring that Israel’s conservative citizens, in voting for a party of flailing, hyper-masculine right wing aggression, have been inadvertently supporting an extremely high-maintenance hair care regimen.

The early days. (Image via Associated Press)

In February 2015, a report by Israel’s comptroller found that Netanyahu and his wife Sara—who, as an aside, was successfully sued for verbal and emotional abuse by a former employee and was recently recommended for indictment following allegations of embezzlement—spent $68,000 in two years in makeup, hairstyling, and “presentation.”


The comptroller noted that these expenses, which also included $41,000 spent on takeout meals in one year (somehow necessary in addition to an in-house chef and $213 daily on groceries and other food/entertainment), “strayed from the cornerstone principles of financial management and the principles of proportionality, reasonableness, saving and efficiency.”

Netanyahu reportedly made an effort to suppress the release of this most recent expenses report, likely due to the fact that it is one of approximately one million spending scandals he has faced over the course of his deeply, perhaps catastrophically damaging tenure. In 2013, the prime minister spent $127,000 installing a double bed on a plane that would take himself and his wife to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral; that same year, around the same time Netanyahu was working to pass a crushing austerity budget, it was revealed that he was spending $2,700 annually on ice cream.


In recent years, as the Times of Israel noted in 2013, Bibi’s hair underwent a subtle resurgence:

Unlike previous photos from the last few years, when Netanyahu sported a modest comb-over of his graying locks, as well as a receding hairline across his pate, the photos of Bibi and Barack showed him with a pompadour hairstyle, with his thinning silvery mane brushed back from his face.


A year earlier in 2012, Haaretz contributor Dani Bar-On contended that Netanyahu was straight-up “bald,” and “stringent about plastering down and combing over his few remaining strands.” This, the columnist claimed, was part of a larger tendency to obsessively hide any signs of physical weakness from public view:

Take blogger Tal Schneider’s piece for Haaretz, “Netanyahu’s crutch: Why has the PM been avoiding photo ops?” In it, she asserts that following a leg injury, Netanyahu’s crutches were carefully tucked out of view so – heaven forbid – the public wouldn’t see him using them.

And don’t forget that when Netanyahu gives a speech at the start of Cabinet meetings, and there are cameras there, he reads from pages in an enormous font. All of this is to avoid him being photographed wearing reading glasses, which, like so many men of a certain age, he needs.


Let’s take a brief look back at the age-defiant journey of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s terrible, extremely expensive hair.

1988: Then- member of Knesset Benjamin Netanyahu is sporting what looks to be the beginnings of a combover, complete with a swooping ‘70s wave. (Image via Getty)
1996: Netanyahu, seen here behind Esther Pollard, the wife of recently-released Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, appears to have settled into his long-term hairstyle, although at this angle we cannot be sure. (Image via Associated Press.)
1997: Netanyahu shakes hands with Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak, hairline noticeably dwindling. (Image via Associated Press.)
2010: Former defense minister Ehud Barak and a heavily balding Netanyahu leave the West Wing after arguing in favor of expanding Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. (Image via Associated Press)
2012: Netanyahu discusses concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities at a UN summit, flaunting a visibly thickened and fastidiously combed ‘do. (Image via Associated Press)
May 2016: In a jarring twist, Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem sporting a perfectly coiffed swoop of hair that exhibits a frankly shocking degree of thickness. (Image via Associated Press)

If anyone can tell me how on earth this happened, please email me.

Image via Getty.

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About the author

Ellie Shechet

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.