Jerusalem ordered to release details about Sara Netanyahu’s employment

Jerusalem ordered to release details about Sara Netanyahu’s employment

Judge partially sides with journalist seeking information on employment terms of PM’s wife as municipal educational psychologist

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara visit Hippos, an archaeological site in Northern Israel, August 15, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara visit Hippos, an archaeological site in Northern Israel, August 15, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The city of Jerusalem must release details about its employment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, the Jerusalem district court ordered Sunday, after a journalist sought the data under a freedom of information request.

Ben Caspit, a reporter for the Maariv daily, had sought details of Sara Netanyahu’s employment as an educational psychologist for the municipality.

Jerusalem District Court judge Arnon Garel ruled the city must provide within 30 days details about the scope of Netanyahu’s work, the number of hours she works each month, any changes that were made in the definition of her work, the total number of hours she worked over the year before the information was requested, and any interruptions in her work schedule that extended for more than 30 days.

The city said in a statement it would honor the ruling, but did not immediately release the information.

In December 2016, Caspit asked for details about Netanyahu’s employment, citing public interest. He had said her commitments as the prime minister’s wife could impact her job as a public servant.

Netanyahu and the municipality objected, claiming that revealing the details would be a security concern to the prime minister’s wife and an invasion of her privacy.

Netanyahu further claimed that Caspit was acting for ulterior motives, to badger her.

Garel reasoned that since both the Sara Netanyahu and her husband have publicly said she is working as a psychologist, it is a justifiable that the public has the right to know some of the details of her work.

However, he refrained from ordering the city to detail how much Netanyahu was paid for her services, which educational institutes she worked at, or any complaints about her work, saying that he had struck the balance between the right for the public to access relevant information, while protecting her personal safety and privacy.

Ben Caspit, political reporter for Ma’ariv, photographed in the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem on Jan 22, 2009 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Ben Caspit, political reporter for Ma’ariv, photographed in the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on January 22, 2009 (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90/File)

“We should not ignore the fact that this is not an ordinary worker, but rather a familiar public figure, and therefore a balanced position is at a place that requires providing partial information.”

Netanyahu and the Jerusalem municipality have previously refused to hand over any of the requested information.

The municipality was also ordered to pay NIS 7,500 in expenses to Caspit and his attorney.

A source close to the Netanyahus called Caspit’s request “provocative, harassing and futile,” and said the judge had rejected most of the petition.

The Jerusalem Municipality responded in a statement saying it believes that Netanyahu “should be treated just like every other worker, and there should be a balance between information that is in the realm of personal privacy and information that can be transmitted with transparency.”

“The court partially accepted the petition and reasoned that in light of her special position the municipality must provide about her some of the information that it does not provide about other workers,” the statement continued. “The municipality will act in accordance with the judgement.”

In his information suit, Caspit noted that, as the wife of the prime minister, Netanyahu has other commitments that could interfere with her ability to conduct her work, which justifies public concern, and that as the recipient of a wage paid from taxes, the public has the right to know where the money is going and for what.

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