Worker says she was forced to write letter lauding Sara Netanyahu

TV publishes text messages by Sylvie Genesia that say she was told to praise premier’s wife while working at official residence despite mistreatment

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives to a court hearing at the regional labor court in Jerusalem, in the case of Shira Raban, a former employee at the Prime Minister's Residence, December 23, 2019.  (Yonatan SIndel/FLASH90)
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives to a court hearing at the regional labor court in Jerusalem, in the case of Shira Raban, a former employee at the Prime Minister's Residence, December 23, 2019. (Yonatan SIndel/FLASH90)

A former worker at the Prime Minister’s Residence claimed she was instructed to write a letter praising Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, even though she was unhappy with the way she was being treated on the job, according to a Monday report.

Sylvie Genesia described the incident to the manager of her company in text messages published by Channel 12. Genesia said that Effi Azulai, the manager of the Prime Minister’s Residence, told her to pen the letter lauding Sara Netanyahu, even though Netanyahu’s demands had brought her to tears.

The claims came after last week police said they were investigating whether two employees at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence gave false testimony in a civil case against Sara — reportedly in order to help her fend off accusations of mistreating a cleaner at the residence.

Sara Netanyahu faces a civil lawsuit from former employee Shira Raban, who claims the premier’s wife mistreated her during a brief stint working at the residence. Raban seeks $63,000 in damages over alleged mistreatment and harassment.

In a letter dated October 3, 2019, Genesia wrote, “Mrs. Netanyahu is an amazing woman and always treats me with great respect. I really appreciate her and learn from her,” Channel 12 reported. The letter was apparently addressed to Netanyahu.

According to the station, on the same day Gensia messaged her manager at the Moriah cleaning company, Yoram Naveh, telling him that Azulai had dictated the letter to her and demanded that she write it.

“Effi [Azulai] told me to write all kinds of things, that she acts with great respect,” Genesia wrote to Naveh. “This morning was really difficult, I cried a lot because of her [Netanyahu] and Effi didn’t let me go. I am not happy with the letter that he gave me to write.”

“He told you what to write?” Naveh asked.

“Yes,” Genesia responded.

View of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 23, 2009. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Genesia’s attorney, Opheer Shimshon, told Channel 12 that the letter was evidence of obfuscation by managers of the housekeeping company and the Prime Minister’s Office.

“This is further proof that pressure was put on the workers in the residence to make false declarations, and that the senior managers in the Moriah company and in the Prime Minister’s Office were partners to the invalid pressure campaign,” Shimshon said.

He said the goal of the campaign was “to hide the truth about known facts of bullying in the residence by Mrs. Netanyahu.”

Sara Netanyahu’s attorney, Yossi Cohen, said that the “orchestrated media campaign that the worker and her attorney are running, the well edited secret recordings in which she talks and describes the work in the residence in order to discredit Sara Netanyahu, are reminiscent of a secret agent who is carrying out a malicious plan and are not simple facts.”

On Sunday, Channel 12 broadcast a recording of a conversation in which Genesia accuses Liora Babian of lying on behalf of Netanyahu. Babian is one of two workers who testified on Sara Netanyahu’s behalf in the civil law suit but has since confessed to the legal adviser of the Prime Minister’s Office that she had lied in an affidavit countering Raban’s claims. The second employee stands by her account.

Channel 13 news, which first reported on the confession, did not specify whether Babian claimed to submit the affidavit of her own volition or faced pressure to back Sara Netanyahu’s account.

Israeli police confirmed last week an investigation “is being conducted with the approval of the Attorney General and the supervision of the State Attorney’s Office” regarding the confession.

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 2019, 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.

The prime minister is also currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three criminal cases. He denies the charges against him.

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