PM’s former housekeeper says report he may turn state’s witness ‘impossible’
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PM’s former housekeeper says report he may turn state’s witness ‘impossible’

After TV claims prosecution mulling deal with Menny Naftali for him to testify against Sara Netanyahu, lawyer says he is not a suspect and so no deal necessary

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Menny Naftali, the former caretaker at the Prime Minister's Residence, at the Jerusalem District Labor Court, March 25, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Menny Naftali, the former caretaker at the Prime Minister's Residence, at the Jerusalem District Labor Court, March 25, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence has denied reports that he may become a state’s witness in the police investigation into the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu for allegedly diverting public money for her private housekeeping expenses.

Channel 2 News reported Wednesday that the state prosecution “was treating Menny Naftali’s status as that of a state witness” and making efforts to enlist him to testify against his former employer. Earlier this month it was reported that the investigation was nearly complete and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was close to indicting Sara Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could face charges in several separate cases. She is suspected of improper behavior and misuse of state funds relating to the Prime Minister’s Residence, including receiving goods under false pretenses, falsifying documents, and breach of trust.

Naftali, who served as caretaker at the Prime Minister’s residence from 2011-2012, has in the past alleged he was verbally and physically abused by the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu during his employment . In February he was awarded NIS 170,000 (about $43,735) in damages from the state after a labor court accepted his claims.

He has since become one of the leaders of a weekly protest outside the attorney general’s house protesting against his handling of a number of graft cases involving Netanyahu and his family, including the investigation against Sara Netanyahu. On Saturday he was arrested after trying to make his way to the planned site of the demonstration despite a police order preventing the protest from taking place.

Sara Netanyahu arrives to testify at the Menny Naftali trial at the Jerusalem Labor Court on May 10, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu arrives to testify at the Menny Naftali trial at the Jerusalem Labor Court on May 10, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the Wednesday report, Naftali could now turn state’s witness against Sara Netanyahu in the corruption probe in order to provide testimony on the time he worked for both Sara and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But immediately after the report, Naftali denied he had made such a deal, writing on Facebook that “it appears someone has got confused.”

Attorney Daniel Haklai, who represents Naftali, told The Times of Israel that there had been no offer from the state prosecution for his client, adding that the deal would not even be possible given that Naftali is not a suspect.

“You can only become a state’s witness if you are questioned as a suspect. My client has never been treated as or questioned as a suspect and therefore cannot become a state’s witness,” he said.

“It would appear to me that there has been some sort of misunderstanding in the language,” Haklai added. “Perhaps the prosecution is considering using Naftali as a regular witness, but as a state’s witness? I don’t see how that could be possible.”

According to the Channel 2 report, Naftali is suspected of aiding Netanyahu is some of the offenses out of desire to please her and to keep his job at the residence.

The charges against Sara Netanyahu include the unlawful hiring of electrician Avi Fahima, a Likud Central Committee member. A committee charged with overseeing residence expenditures — which included the Prime Minister’s Office legal adviser — ruled against the hiring of Fahima, but he was employed nonetheless.

Further allegations relate to the use of state funds for purchasing furniture designated for the Caesarea home. The furniture was apparently purchased for the official residence in Jerusalem and then moved to the Netanyahu home, while their older furniture was taken to the Prime Minister’s Residence to replace it.

A security guard puts blinds at the entrance to the Prime minister Residence in Jerusalem, January 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A security guard puts blinds at the entrance to the Prime minister Residence in Jerusalem, January 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The prime minister’s wife is also suspected of improper use of state funds for medical care for her late father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi. And she is also suspected of routinely making false reports that the family was entertaining guests, or exaggerated the number of guests, at the prime minster’s residence in order to receive catering services at the expense of the state.

The cost to the state is estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels over a period of many years.

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing and has claimed in the past that she is a victim of a plot to topple the prime minister and that former employees have been paid to testify against her.

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