The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office Civil Division on Tuesday filed nine affidavits from state employees defending the conduct of the Netanyahu family and the state against accusations by former manager of the Prime Minister’s Residence Meni Naftali of labor-law violations, and slamming Naftali for disparaging Sara Netanyahu and other employees.
Noteworthy from the large submission of legal documents was what was missing – an affidavit from Sara Netanyahu, which the court had ordered in December.
The state, representing the Netanyahus, preempted objections that it had failed to comply with the court order, noting that the court had ordered only submissions of any affidavits that would be filed in the case and that Mrs. Netanyahu was prepared to testify, if ordered to, but had chosen not to file an affidavit.
Next, the state said that in light of the numerous affidavits it had submitted, which it said responded to all of Naftali’s allegations, it believed the court should reconsider its order that the prime minister’s wife would need to testify.
Aside from the substantive arguments, the tactical maneuver likely will avoid the political risk of her having to submit an affidavit or testify before next week’s election.
Of the nine employees, Ezra Seidoff, deputy director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, has been the most prominent in the headlines following Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s February 26 decision to order a criminal investigation, separate from Naftali’s civil claim, into the allegations surrounding the Prime Minister’s Residence. Naftali was house manager from February 2011 to November 2012.
While Weinstein exempted the prime minister 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 Seidoff, with Sara Netanyahu possibly also in the crosshairs.
In his affidavit filed on Tuesday, Seidoff went on the attack, saying that Naftali’s “relations were not good” with some of the workers.
He rebutted Naftali’s claims that Sara Netanyahu abused him and discriminated against 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.
“Even on Naftali’s last day at work, he came back and said that if he received funding for continuing in his position, he would remain as house manager,” Seidoff said.
Perhaps the most glaring allegations were leveled by Ofra Shimon, a former employee of Naftali’s at the residence, who 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 that throughout her time working there Naftali hurt her, cursed her, harassed her and interfered with her work.
On a number of occasions, she said, she was driven to tears by Naftali’s behavior, which included taking food she personally prepared for the Netanyahus, throwing it in the garbage and then telling the family they had to order food from outside.
Shimon said Naftali would go out of his way to avoid doing tasks assigned by Mrs. Netanyahu and that he would ignore the couple when they tried to contact him on the house’s intercom.
She related an anecdote in which Naftali allegedly poured water on the floor of a hallway in the house and said, “I hope she [Mrs. Netanyahu] slips and falls.”
Shimon claimed Naftali would falsify work hours in favor of employees he was friends with, and not allow her to work overtime.
During the entire time she worked for the residence, Shimon said, 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.
Other state employees also filed affidavits, including Ran Yishai, the Prime Minister’s Office deputy director- general for human resources; Naomi Mann, the head of human resources at the residence; Ayelet Kadosh; Yaniv Suisa; and Shalom Shamir.
Yishai said in his affidavit that at no time did Naftali express to him any of the complaints he later issued against the Netanyahus.
Mann said Naftali received all compensation he was owed for his work, including for overtime hours.
One of Naftali’s attorneys, Ofer Almog, said they had seen the allegations, but preferred not to respond.