Ex-staffer testifies in fresh abuse lawsuit against Sara Netanyahu

Complainant charges prime minister’s wife forced her to wash her hands over 100 times a day, change clothes dozens of times a shift

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the lobby for encouraging Bible study, at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, January 31, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the lobby for encouraging Bible study, at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, January 31, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A former worker in the Prime Minister’s Residence provided police testimony on Sunday in an abuse lawsuit filed against Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife.

Police took testimony regarding the ex-staffer’s complaints, and also probed other witnesses in order to corroborate her story. The complainant is a 24-year-old ultra-Orthodox mother of three, who worked recently as a cleaner at the residence for one month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and their son Yair, during a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, not pictured, at Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on December 8, 2013. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90/File)

The NIS 225,000 ($64,000) lawsuit details how Israel’s first lady allegedly insulted the young staffer relentlessly throughout her short tenure at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The lawsuit charges that during the staffer’s initial job interview with Netanyahu, she was asked if she owned a car because arriving late would be “the end of the world” from her boss’s perspective. In addition, Netanyahu told the prospective cleaner that she liked workers who “run.”

“That’s why I don’t hire fat women,” Netanyahu allegedly said.

The prime minister’s wife then told the complainant that she would be working with another employee but the two were forbidden from speaking with one another, the lawsuit charged.

Among the former employee’s complaints were not being allowed to take leave when one of her children was sick, and being forced to use the bathroom outside the main building.

She also claimed that the prime minister’s oldest son, Yair Netanyahu, would conduct cleanliness inspections.

Netanyahu allegedly forbade the former staffer from eating, drinking, or resting, and she was required to change her clothes dozens of times a day. She was also required to wash her hands about 100 times a day with hot water, and was expected to wipe them with a towel, separate from the one used by the Netanyahu family, the lawsuit charged.

The name of the former employee has not yet been released for publication. However, breaking protocol aimed at protecting witnesses and those filing police complaints, Likud MK David Amsalem revealed the name of the ex-staffer to Channel 2 on Saturday night, saying she was part of a “witch hunt” against the Netanyahu family and shouldn’t remain anonymous.

The Likud lawmaker was widely panned for naming the complainant, including by the ex-employee’s lawyer, who responded by publishing Amsalem’s personal phone number on Facebook.

Several former employees have claimed mistreatment by the prime minister’s wife.

Menny Naftali, the former Prime Minister’s Residence manager, seen during a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 17, 2015. (Flash90)

The Netanyahus deny any wrongdoing, dismissing allegations as a political witch hunt by hostile media.

In the suit, the lawyers said that because the woman was ultra-Orthodox, she does not watch TV or listen to the radio, so she was unaware of the previous allegations surrounding Sara Netanyahu.

Responding to a query from The Times of Israel on the questioning, police said that the woman requested, via her lawyer, to give testimony on her own accord and was not asked or compelled to testify by authorities.

“After ascertaining her account, the complaint will be passed on to authorized police investigators for further treatment, according to the advice of the State Prosecution,” police said in a statement.

In possibly damning revelation, Channel 2 reported Sunday night that another former employee of the Prime Minster’s Residence who is mentioned in the lawsuit as a witness to the alleged abuse was offered the job of “aide to a CEO” by Arik Rosenthal, a media consultant working with law firm representing the chief complainant.

Rosenthal said in response that he understood the employee in question was having difficulty finding a new job and he was acting “out of a sincere concern for her well-being.”

A spokesperson for the Netanyahu family later said the report proved the allegations of abuse as “baseless claims, part of an illegitimate method aimed at blackening the name of Sara Netanyahu and damaging the prime minister.”

“There is no end to the persecution and character assassination,” the statement said, noting past accusations against Sara Netanyahu, including the “cynical” claims made by former housekeeper Menny Naftali, who is also said to have used Rosenthal as a media consultant. The statement, however, failed to mention that Naftali was awarded NIS 170,000 compensation (about $43,735) by a court for the years of mistreatment at the hand of Mrs. Netanyahu, while working at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

“Who would offer, via a text message, a job of an aide to a CEO to someone they had never met, who by chance is a central witness?” the Netanyahus’ statement asks. “This message exposes the whole farce.”

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