Sara Netanyahu testifies against ex-employee, says media defamed her

PM’s wife claims publisher of popular daily is behind case against her, compares him to literary villain Lord Voldemort

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attends a court hearing in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2015 (AFP/Gali Tibbon)
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attends a court hearing in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2015 (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, claimed in court Sunday that the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily was backing a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence who is alleging that she mistreated employees.

“There’s a very strong media figure behind Menny Naftali,” Sara Netanyahu said — referring to Arnon Moses of Yedioth — when she took the stand to answer allegations made by Menny Naftali, the former caretaker, in a NIS 1 million ($258,000) civil suit.

“For over a year, I’ve been dragged through the mud publicly by Menny Naftali with support from the media,” Netanyahu claimed.

Asked about Moses later in the hearing, she said, “He’s like [the character in] Harry Potter, he who cannot be named,” referring to the villain Lord Voldemort in the popular book series.

Sunday’s hearing marks the first time Netanyahu has publicly addressed Naftali’s allegations. She said he was seeking to extort money from the state’s coffers.

Netanyahu also said that for the last 18 months Naftali “threatened and blackmailed” the Prime Minister’s Office and claimed she had text messages to prove it.

She told the court that while he was working for her family, Naftali often spoke crudely and was physically abusive to her children and their friends when they visited. She said that a fear of negative media attention prevented her from firing him earlier.

Menny Naftali, a former superintendent at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's residence, attends Sara Netanyahu's court hearing to testify in a one-million-shekel ($258,500) damages suit, in a court in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2015 (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)
Menny Naftali, a former caretaker at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s residence, attends Sara Netanyahu’s court hearing in Jerusalem to testify in a 1-million-shekel ($258,500) damages suit, on May 10, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Gali Tibbon)

In March, Naftali testified against the Netanyahus, alleging verbal and emotional abuse in addition to financial impropriety by Ms. Netanyahu. He also claimed that he was promised a permanent position at the Prime Minister’s Residence, an offer that was later reneged upon by the prime minister’s wife.

Naftali is suing the state, the Netanyahus and the deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office in the Jerusalem Labor Court.

During the hearing, state prosecutors also dug into an incident where Sara Netanyahu allegedly pulled a tablecloth from under a table setting during a meal on the patio of the residence and threw it at an employee.

“I’m a third-generation Holocaust survivor,” she said, asserting that hurling household items “goes against my DNA.”

Netanyahu also categorically denied a separate allegation that she had hit employee Etti Haim on the arm. “It’s simply a lie, I never touched her. I’m shocked to hear this,” she told the court.

The Netanyahus have countered that Naftali’s suit was born of his frustration over not having received tenure in the position after working as a temporary caretaker for two years.

Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. (photo credit: Warner Bros. / Wikipedia)
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. (photo credit: Warner Bros. / Wikipedia)

Upon leaving the courtroom Sunday, Naftali told Channel 2 that Ms. Netanyahu had lied in her testimony.

“She’s lying big time, they taught her how to lie,” he said.

“I believe I’m being made an example of,” he added. “Today, a weight has been lifted off my chest,” the ex-caretaker said, and added that despite suing the prime minister, he continues to support Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Naftali’s accusations range from claims of verbal abuse and what he called irrational demands by Sara Netanyahu regarding the management of the residence, to allegations that the prime minister’s wife made him return wine bottles to supermarkets after which she pocketed the deposits.

Naftali also claimed that Ms. Netanyahu made him undertake chores at all hours of the day. He accused the Netanyahus of spending money on food and drink ordered from outside the residence, despite the fact that a cook working at the Prime Minister’s Residence is paid for by the state.

His allegations were widely covered by the Israeli media, which has often reported on the Netanyahus’ lavish lifestyle, including outsize expenses charged to state coffers, and has also portrayed Sara Netanyahu as a difficult person who wields great influence over her husband.

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