Sara Netanyahu slams ‘media lies’ after claims she tried to attack PMO director

Haaretz reports prime minister’s wife lunged at Eli Groner during argument over renovations at Caesarea home; Groner denies incident occurred

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on January 22, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on January 22, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara Thursday slammed the “media’s lies” following a report that she tried to attack outgoing Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Eli Groner during an altercation in January.

Groner, who announced earlier this week that he is stepping down from the position, has denied that the incident occurred. Netanyahu has not yet announced his replacement.

Citing unnamed sources inside the PMO, the Haaretz newspaper claimed that Sara Netanyahu become violently angry during a dispute over the funding of renovations at the prime minister’s private residence in Caesarea, and lunged at Groner, forcing him to push her off.

After the report came out Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu released a video slamming the media.

In the low-quality Hebrew-language clip, filmed while visiting the mourning family of Roman Lubarsky — a soldier from an elite army unit who died after he was critically injured during an arrest raid in the West Bank — the prime minister’s wife said that the media was constantly blowing stories about her out of proportion.

“I have no words to describe the delirium of lies that has been going on for over 20 years,” she said, with her husband by her side. “Tendentious lies. The Israeli media is so wicked to me. The proportion shows how petty, delusional, and small this is.”

Benjamin Netanyahu said he was waiting for the day the Israeli media would write something true about his wife “as a wife, mother, and daughter, as someone who does so much good for the Israeli public,” adding that he would have to wait a long time for that to ever happen.

The short film ends with the couple exiting the shot, leaving only the bereavement notice for Lubarsky in the background.

Despite slamming the media “lies,” the Netanyahu’s stopped short of directly refuting the report.

Asked if they could unequivocally deny the incident took place, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office referred The Times of Israel to Groner’s denial, quoted by Haaretz, but declined to comment on whether Benjamin or Sara Netanyahu personally reject the account. A spokesperson for the Netanyahu family also declined to comment on whether couple deny the incident took place.

Haaretz quoted sources in the PMO who said that in the beginning of January, Sara Netanyahu requested funding to renovate the property in Caesarea. She tried to phone Groner but was unable to reach him. She then reportedly arrived at the PMO and confronted Groner. The sources told Haaretz that the conversation became heated at that at one stage the prime minister’s wife stormed towards Groner, who pushed her off. Another staff member then separated the two.

After the confrontation, Groner allegedly considered resigning immediately. He discussed it with Netanyahu’s bureau chief, Yoav Horowitz, who said he would raise it with the prime minister. Horowitz promised that Netanyahu would ensure it did not happen again.

The report said that Sara Netanyahu had asked her husband several times to fire Groner but the prime minister refused.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Eli Groner, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, at a press conference announcing a new reform for small businesses at the PMO in Jerusalem, on December 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

This is not the first time the prime minister’s wife has been accused of violent conduct, with the Jerusalem District Labor Court having awarded compensation to former employees of the prime minister’s wife on two separate occasions.

In one 2016 case, the court awarded NIS 120,000 ($31,000) in damages to a former employee of the Netanyahus official residence, ruling that Sara Netanyahu, had mistreated him with verbal abuse and unreasonable demands. In a separate case that year, the court awarded Menny Naftali, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, NIS 170,000 (about $43,735) in damages, accepting his claims of mistreatment by Sara Netanyahu.

In the Naftali case, a former cook at the residence, Eti Haim, also testified against Sara Netanyahu, telling the court that the prime minister’s wife once hit her on the hand for mistakenly opening a door on her. In a lengthy deposition, Haim, who was compelled to testify by the court after initially refusing to do so, also told of an occasion where Sara Netanyahu threw plates at her across the garden patio.

Separately, on Sunday it was reported that the attorney general intends to indict Sara Netanyahu wife for allegedly diverting state funds for her own personal use.

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