In court, Sara Netanyahu pummels staff, media over employee abuse accusations

PM’s wife says cleaner who’s suing her was ‘a mole’ planted in the official residence, accuses workers of trying to extort money from her through courts

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaves after a court hearing at the Jerusalem District Labor Court, in lawsuit against her by a former employee at the Prime Minister's Residence, December 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaves after a court hearing at the Jerusalem District Labor Court, in lawsuit against her by a former employee at the Prime Minister's Residence, December 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, angrily lashed out at a former worker at the Prime Minister’s Residence and the media while testifying Monday in court in a civil suit in which she is the defendant.

Netanyahu called Shira Raban, who is suing her for abusive work conditions, a liar and accused her of trying to extort the country.

“It’s so easy, when you’re not working, to sue Sara Netanyahu” for money instead, she said, referring to herself in the third person. “Shira Raban was in the residence as a mole — I have no doubt about this.”

Netanyahu, who has for years been accused by Raban and other employees of subjecting them to draconian conditions and loud, angry outbursts, said the media is “trying with all its might to make claims against me.”

“They have demonized me for years; it is easy to throw everything at me,” she said. “What Raban is saying is a lie.”

Raban, an ultra-Orthodox mother of three, worked as a cleaner at the Netanyahus’ official residence in Jerusalem for a month in 2017, when she was 24.

Shira Raban, a former cleaner at the Prime Ministers Residence, at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on June 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Raban alleges that the prime minister’s wife insulted her relentlessly throughout her short tenure. She filed her lawsuit shortly after leaving her position, seeking NIS 225,000 ($64,000) in damages.

Netanyahu said that during the period Raban worked at the residence, the prime minister and his family were hardly ever there.

“I barely knew or saw her,” she said. “There are workers who want to extort money from me.”

She added that the threat of lawsuits fueled by media reports about her behavior have made her afraid of the workers in the residence.

“To be in a home that has staff is sometimes like living with the enemy,” she said. “Sometimes I am really afraid.”

At one point Judge Eyal Avrahami interrupted Netanyahu’s testimony and said to her, “I see that you have a lot of baggage — try to focus on what is relevant to the lawsuit.”

Netanyahu responded, “There is an end to the lies. This is an opportunity to say what I have to say after 23 years of stories against me. I feel that it is abuse, that the media wants to abuse.”

Justice Eyal Avrahami, President of the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court, seen before the start of a court hearing in a lawsuit against the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu, December 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu claimed that she was not directly in charge of Raban, but that it was Nili Kadosh, another employee at the residence at the time, who gave Raban instructions.

She also denied that workers have ever been asked to work more than 12 hours in a single shift or that she had demanded Raban work on Yom Kippur eve, which in Israel is often a day off to prepare for the fast.

When Raban’s attorney Naomi Landau asked Netanyahu if she ever shouted at the workers, Netanyahu shot back that “everyone occasionally shouts” and that the attorney “is the last one who can ask me that, given the rumors about you. For years you have made a career at my expense,” representing former workers who have sued the prime minister’s wife.

Residence manager Effie Azoulay echoed Netanyahu’s testimony, telling the court Monday he also believes Raban was a “mole” and that she is “mentally disturbed.” He also claimed that Raban was making false accusations for the money and her husband had once said he would get into a traffic accident in order to be able to claim compensation.

Attorney Naomi Landau, representing Shira Raban, a former employee at the Prime Minister’s Residence who is suing the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, at the Regional Labor Court in Jerusalem, December 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Some of Rabin’s complaints include not being allowed to take leave when one of her children was sick, and being forced to use the bathroom outside the main building.

Netanyahu allegedly forbade the former staffer to eat, drink, or rest, 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 dry them with a towel separate from the one used by the Netanyahu family, the lawsuit charges.

On Sunday Kadosh submitted to the court a signed affidavit in which she declared that Raban’s claims were “all nonsense.

“Sara Netanyahu treated me with respect and politeness,” Kadosh declared. “I am shocked and disgusted by what Raban claims.”

According to Channel 13 news, Kadosh admitted that the affidavit was prepared for her by Netanyahu’s attorney Yossi Cohen and that she just put her name to it.

Several former employees have claimed mistreatment and abuse by the prime minister’s wife. The official residence’s former caretaker successfully sued her for verbal and emotional abuse, as did another former worker.

In June, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing public funds as part of a plea deal in a case involving allegations she illegally procured and then misreported catering services at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The agreement saw Netanyahu escape a conviction of aggravated fraud, but confess to a lesser charge of taking advantage of a mistake. She was ordered to pay NIS 55,000 ($15,210) to the state — NIS 10,000 as a fine, and the rest as restitution.

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