Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appears in the Magistrate Court, for a hearing on a plea deal over the misuse of state funds for meals at the premier's residence, in Jerusalem Image Credit: AP

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife may have violated the country's coronavirus lockdown by inviting a hairdresser into the official residence last week to prepare her for a public service video advocating the wearing of masks.

The Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported that Sara Netanyahu had a hairdresser visit on the eve of the festive Sukkot holiday. Hair salons and barber shops are closed as part of a nationwide lockdown imposed last month, and people have been ordered to remain within 1,000 meters (yards) of home except for essential activities.

The Netanyahus have long been criticized for enjoying a lavish lifestyle out of the reach of most Israelis. Sara has been fined thousands of dollars over the years for using public money for her own extravagant tastes and for abusive behavior toward her personal staff.

An official statement released in response to the news report said Sara was strictly abiding by all the coronavirus regulations, including sheltering at home and enforcing the wearing of masks at the official residence.

As a public figure making an informational video, she believed she was entitled to employ the services of the hairstylist, the statement said. It added that they both wore masks and gloves during the appointment and that she asked the stylist to refrain from making conversation.

The newspaper said that while the prime minister is entitled to such services as a public servant, his wife is not. An ordinary Israeli would pay a 500-shekel ($150) fine for violating the restriction.

The prime minister has been the target of mass demonstrations in recent months, with protesters calling on him to step down while he is on trial for corruption and criticizing his response to the coronavirus. Israelis have also expressed anger about a number of recent instances in which senior officials and their family members violated lockdown orders.

In June 2019, a court ordered Sara to pay a fine of more than $15,000 for misusing state funds after she was accused of misusing some $100,000 in state money on lavish meals. In 2016, a court ruled that she had mistreated a housecleaner and awarded the man $42,000 in damages. Other employees have also accused her of abuse.

The Netanyahus have rejected all the allegations against them. Both say they have been the target of a ``witch hunt'' by hostile media and law enforcement.