Yair Netanyahu, 32, has been in Florida since at least April, after his father told him to stop making inflammatory posts on social media, which saw him sued for defamation multiple times.
Meanwhile an unprecedented 360,000 reservists have been called up – many of them dropping everything to fly back to Israel, even abandoning honeymoons.
But Yair has remained in Miami, to the irritation of some of the troops. ‘Yair is enjoying his life at Miami Beach while I’m on the front lines,’ one soldier, a volunteer serving on Israel’s northern front, told The Times.
‘It’s us who are leaving our work, our families, our kids, to protect our families back home and the country, not the people who are responsible for this situation.
‘Our brothers, our fathers, sons, are all going to the front line, but Yair is still not here. It does not help build trust in the leadership of the country.’
Netanyahu is pictured sorting donated supplies to IDF soldiers and Israeli families impacted by the Israel-Hamas war, with NGO Yedidim USA, in Fort Lauderdale on October 17
Yair Netanyahu, 32, is seen with his father in a photo earlier this year. Since at least April, Yair has been living in the United States
Another, deployed to the border with Gaza, said: ‘I’ve flown back from the States where I have a job, a life, my family.
‘There is no way I can stay there and abandon my country, my people, at this critical time. Where is the prime minister’s son? Why isn’t he in Israel?
‘It is the most uniting moment for us as Israelis in our recent history and every single one of us should be here right now, including the prime minister’s son.’
Yair, who studied theatre at high school, undertook compulsory military service and worked in the spokesman’s unit of IDF, rather than as a combat soldier.
Military service is compulsory for the majority of Israelis when they turn 18. Men have to serve 32 months and women 24.
After this, most of them can be called up to reserve units until the age of 40, or even older, in case of national emergency, and they fight alongside the regular troops in times of war.
Reservists are also used in non-combat roles, meaning that Yair’s lack of frontline experience would not automatically exempt him.
Israelis abroad are using WhatsApp chats to organize their return, sharing information on where to find available flights, said Yedidya Shalman, 26, who was in Thailand on his honeymoon when the violence exploded out of Gaza.
‘(We) set up WhatsApp groups almost everywhere in the world, we called people to join them and we slowly worked to bring as many reservists as possible back to Israel,’ he told Reuters, explaining he and his wife did not hesitate to curtail their holiday.
‘Of course we didn’t think twice and are currently on our way home on an El Al plane,’ he said via WhatsApp.
Yair Netanyahu is pictured in New York City in a photo posted in October 2022
Yair strikes a pose in a July 4 post shared on Instagram
Yair is seen as a seven-year-old child with his father visiting the Wailing Wall
Yair and his brother Avner are pictured with their mother Sara and Bill Clinton in the White House
The Netanyahus are visited by Disney characters inside the prime minister’s residence in Israel
Yair accompanies his parents to a meeting with Vladimir Putin in January 2020 in Jerusalem
Oren Saar, 37, runs a food delivery startup, WoodSpoon, in New York City, where he lives with his wife and three young boys.
A former captain in the Israeli army, he immediately acknowledged the call-up, but didn’t tell his children what he was doing.
‘The kids are very young and it’s not really something that you want to explain. We told them I’m going on a business trip to Israel,’ he said, adding that it was going to be ‘tricky’ to keep his new business going in his absence.
‘But you know, there’s just no question about what to do when my friends, my family and my country are at risk,’ he said.
Nimrod Nedan, a 23-year-old studying medicine in Lithuania, said friends and relatives died or were missing as a result of the surprise Hamas attack, spurring him to action.
‘I cannot sit here and study medicine while I know that my friends are fighting and my family needs protection. This is my time,’ he said.
L.K. – a 37-year-old reservist who served as an air force pilot for 13 years, and asked to be identified just by his initials for security reasons – felt exactly the same.
He works for a tech company in New York, and left his home, wife and children to hurry back to his squadron.
‘There is no other place in the world I would rather be. If I had to sit in my lovely apartment on the Upper West Side watching this I would never forgive myself,’ he said. Yair Netanyahu has long affinity with the United States.
His father studied at MIT and Harvard before joining Boston Consulting Group, where he worked alongside Mitt Romney, and served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. Yair was born three years after his father left New York.
Yair’s Instagram page shows him and his younger brother, Avner, with Bill Clinton in the White House: as an adult, Yair roamed the US, spending time in Manhattan, Seattle and Washington DC.
He is also seen with Vladimir Putin, and welcoming Donald and Melania Trump to Jerusalem – where he reportedly told Melania he sympathized with their son, Barron.
Yair is shown meeting Donald and Melania Trump with his parents and Jared Kushner – a family friend of the Netanyahus
Yair is seen celebrating his 32nd birthday earlier this year
On October 5 – two days before the Hamas terror attack – it emerged he was wanting to stay in the United States permanently.
Yair was overheard at a wedding in London over the summer worrying that he would be turned away by U.S. authorities because the Biden administration was frosty towards Netanyahu, Haaretz reported.
An American immigration law firm, Wildes & Weinberg, then announced on Facebook that ‘with newly minted offices in Tel Aviv, Yair joins our list of distinguished clients from Israel.’
The post boasted that the firm ‘is representing Yair Netanyahu in connection with his International Matters’ and noted that ‘Yair is an internationally renowned political speaker and journalist in Israel and abroad.’
He has been carving out a name for himself as a right-wing podcast host and media figure, and has regularly shared controversial memes and posts, resulting in several defamation cases over the years.
Yair sparked widespread anger by describing as ‘terrorists’ the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who took to the streets against the government’s reform of the Supreme Court, and accusing the United States of being behind the protests.
In August, he was ordered by a court to pay over $34,000 in compensation and $6,000 in legal costs to a woman he implied was having an affair with his father’s political rival.
Earlier this year, a judge ordered him to pay $18,000 to a former lawmaker in Israel’s opposition Labor Party whom he called ‘ugly.’
Yair also caused controversy when it emerged in 2014 that he was dating a Norwegian girl – who is not Jewish.
The then-23 year old was seen in Israel with blonde communications student Sandra Leikanger, then 25, and even visited her home country.
Their love affair emerged after Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg revealed that Benjamin Netanyahu had been ‘boasting’ of his son’s relationship at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Yair, then aged 23, with his Norwegian girlfriend, communications student Sandra Leikanger, then 25
A year later, Yair had moved on with Danish-Israeli model and student Lee Levi. That same year, 2015, Yair was secretly recorded in a limo bragging about women and talking about a strip club.
Yair tells the son of an Israeli gas tycoon that his father approved a controversial gas deal in parliament that benefited his friend’s father.
According to The Times of Israel, Yair was trying to get cash from the tycoon’s son to pay strippers.
He apologized for the ‘ridiculous’ and ‘foolish’ things he said.
The row about the Netanyahu’s son came as Israel readies for a ground offensive in Gaza, in retaliation for the October 7 terror attack launched from the enclave by Hamas, killing 1,400 Israelis.
Israel has shown little sign of slowing its offensive, despite fears about the civilian toll in Gaza, and despite U.S. concerns about a lack of clear military strategy.
Since October 7, Israel has been launching a relentless campaign of air strikes, which have killed 5,000 Palestinians, according to Hamas.
On Monday the Israeli military said it had hit ‘over 320 military targets’ overnight, some of the most intense bombing of the war to date.
A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was killed and three others wounded during a ground operation ‘to dismantle terror infrastructure… and locate missing persons and bodies’.
But the timing of a promised full-scale ground offensive remains unclear.
‘We are well prepared for the ground operations in the south,’ Herzi Halevi, the chief of general staff of the Israel Defense Forces told troops.
‘The Southern Command has quality operational plans. There are tactical, operative and strategic considerations that have provided additional time,’ he said.
Chief among those considerations may be the labyrinth of tunnels and strong points that Hamas is believed to have developed to thwart any Israeli invasion.
But there are also fears about how Hamas’s allies around the Middle East would respond to a ground war.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War has reported an uptick in attacks on Israeli and US targets from Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.
There are daily cross-border clashes between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group.
A three-star Marine general has been sent by the U.S. to Israel ahead of the expected invasion of Gaza, as the Biden administration grows worried the IDF does not have a clear mission plan.
But they have not explained how they intend to do so, or what happens after the invasion – to the concern of Washington. American officials told The New York Times they have not yet seen an ‘achievable plan of action’.
He said Israel would need ‘clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you’re on will achieve those objectives.’
Behind closed doors US defense secretary Lloyd Austin was also pressing his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant to detail their plans.
Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, is seen on October 13 speaking to his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, in Tel Aviv
Lt. Gen. James Glynn, who previously headed the Marines’ special operations and was involved in the operations against ISIS in Iraq, has been sent to Israel to help them prepare for the invasion of Gaza
Israeli troops are seen close to the Gaza border on Monday, with an invasion expected at any moment
Israeli forces have been told that they should expect to go in to Gaza to destroy Hamas’ leadership
He warned that urban warfare was complicated, and could result in the deaths of many civilians.
Austin was the head of United States Central Command in 2016 and 2017, when U.S. forces were helping Iraqi and Kurdish troops to force ISIS out of Mosul.
Lt. Gen. James Glynn, who previously headed the Marines’ special operations and was involved in the operations against ISIS in Iraq, has been dispatched to Israel to help plan for the challenges of urban warfare.
Glynn is not directing operations, but giving advice, according to Axios.
Michael Knights, a fellow with The Washington Institute, has pointed out that the Islamic State had only two years to prepare defenses in Mosul, but Hamas was likely to be far more entrenched.
He wrote earlier this month: ‘Hamas has had 15 years to prepare a dense ‘defense in depth’ that integrates subterranean, ground-level and aboveground fortifications, communication tunnels, emplacements and fighting positions as well as potential minefields, improvised explosive devices, explosively formed penetrator anti-armor mines and buildings rigged as explosive booby traps.’