Trial against Netanyahu family opens; Sara Netanyahu may testify

Meni Naftali, former house manager of the prime minister’s residence, is seeking hundreds of thousands of shekels for alleged poor treatment and failure to pay him for overtime hours.

March 25, 2015 11:31
4 minute read.
Meni Naftali

Meni Naftali . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Meni Naftali, the former house manager of the Prime Minister’s Residence, accused Sara Netanyahu of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol during the first day of trial testimony Wednesday in Naftali’s lawsuit against the Netanyahu family.

Naftali, the former house manager of the residence, is seeking hundreds of thousands of shekels for alleged poor treatment and failure to pay him for overtime hours.

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During his testimony at the trial on accusations of labor law violations, Naftali claimed that various Prime Minister’s Office officials had broken promises they had allegedly made to him that they would make his house manager position permanent, an upgrade from his status as temporary manager over an extended period.

Naftali also complained that there was an incitement and intimidation campaign against him, including breaking into his home.

Sara Netanyahu had been also expected to testify at the trial, but her testimony was delayed until May 10. A good portion of the day was unexpectedly taken up by unsuccessful attempts by Jerusalem Labor Court President Dita Pruginin to broker a settlement between the parties, only leaving time for Naftali and his two witnesses, also former employees at the Prime Minister’s Residence, to testify.

The Netanyahus responded in a statement to Naftali’s testimony: “The baseless lies, slander and mudslinging which Mani Naftali told about the wife of the prime minister in court, who is not even a defendant in his case, are scandalous. Nothing less than that.”

Naftali is not suing the Netanyahus personally, but rather the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Netanyahus added, “Naftali is exploiting the fact that he cannot be sued for the defamatory and libelous statements he is making from the witness stand, and he continues to try to blacken Mrs. Netanyahu, all with the purpose of trying to illegally extort funds out of the state and to harm the prime minister and his family.”

The state had pushed hard to avoid having to file an affidavit by Sara Netanyahu, but Pruginin recently rejected the repeated requests.

Last week, Netanyahu finally filed her affidavit, rejecting all of Naftali’s claims, and setting the stage for her testimony.

On March 10, the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office Civil Division filed nine affidavits from state employees defending the conduct of the Netanyahu family and the state against Naftali’s accusations and slamming him as disparaging Sara and other employees.

Naftali was house manager from February 2011 until November 2012.

Of the nine employees, Ezra Seidof, deputy director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, has been the most in the headlines recently, following Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s February 26 decision to order a criminal investigation, separate from Naftali’s civil claim, into the affairs surrounding the Prime Minister’s Residence.

While Weinstein exempted Benjamin Netanyahu from criminal suspicion at this stage, the State Comptroller’s Report on the issue appeared to suggest that the focus of the probe, boosted by new testimony from Naftali, could be Seidof, with the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, possibly also in the cross-hairs.

In his affidavit though Seidof went on the attack, stating that Naftali’s “relations were not good” with some of the workers.

Seidof also rebuts Naftali’s claims against Sara that she abused him and discriminated him on a racial basis, noting “I did not witness any racism or racist statements... Naftali never claimed that he wanted to end his job over this.”

He continued, “even on Naftali’s last day at work, he came back and said that if he receive funding for continuing in his position, he would remain as house manager.”

Seidof also rejected Naftali’s claims that Seidof has promised him he could become an official government employee.

Rather, Seidof said he was always clear with Naftali that the house manager position required a competitive open process, a regulation that was only changed in October 2013.

Ofra Shimon, a former employee of Naftali’s at the residence, described him as a violent, abusive boss who punched and pushed his employees and was disrespectful toward Sara Netanyahu, going out of his way to enrage and irritate her.

Shimon, who was part of Naftali’s staff at the residence for two years and seven months beginning in 2010, said in her affidavit presented on Tuesday that throughout her time working there Naftali hurt her, cursed her, harassed her and interfered with her work.

She said that he would falsify work hours in favor of employees he was friends with and would not allow her to work overtime hours.

Shimon added that during the entire time she worked for the residence, Mrs. Netanyahu treated her respectfully and that she does not know of any employees who were physically or emotionally harmed or bitter about their time working for the first lady.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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