(photo credit: Channel 2)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein may be in serious legal trouble following an announcement on Tuesday that he and his wife were being examined by the State Attorney’s Office for employing as a house-cleaner a foreign worker from India who had a work permit as a caregiver.
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On the surface at least, Weinstein’s circumstances appear to be identical to those of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s wife, Nili Priel, who employed a Filipina housecleaner who entered Israel with a work permit as a caregiver.
Weinstein has charged Priel with a criminal offense for employing the caregiver as a house-cleaner. Originally, Weinstein closed the case on the grounds that he could not find the worker, who goes by the name “Virginia,” in the Barak home.
However, his decision triggered a public outcry, especially after Carmela Menashe, the military correspondent of Israel Radio, located the woman immediately after Weinstein closed the case. Critics charged that Weinstein had given Barak special treatment because of his status.
The attorney-general was deeply embarrassed by the reporter’s coup, and Oz, the unit of the Population, Migration and Border Crossings Authority responsible for apprehending illegal workers, quickly located her.
In the meantime, Priel, who had already admitted that she had employed an illegal foreigner, asked Weinstein to let her pay a fine.
Weinstein replied that this was impossible, because she had employed the woman in an economic sector other than the one for which she had received a work permit. As such, she must stand trial.
Now, Weinstein may be facing exactly the same problem himself. Last week, Haaretz published a front-page story revealing that an Indian migrant worker had cleaned the family home for a year, beginning in 2008, despite the fact that the worker’s permit allowed him to work only as a caretaker.
Weinstein did not deny the report.
The Justice Ministry responded to the article by saying: “It is true that in the past, a foreign worker from India was employed by the Weinstein family. His work was stopped in 2009, before Weinstein was appointed attorney-general.”
It added that when Weinstein’s wife hired him, the house-cleaner was in Israel legally. Mrs. Weinstein did not ask more than that, even though every employer of a foreign worker must receive a permit to employ him.
After learning about the situation, the Movement for Quality Government demanded that the matter be looked into.
“The MQG asks that the facts as described in the report be investigated and, if necessary, action be taken in accordance with the law on this matter,” the watchdog organization wrote in a letter to the attorney- general.
Attorney Raz Nazri, Weinstein’s senior aide, replied that “we have already asked the state attorney to handle the matter, in the same manner that is standard for other such situations, with the relevant people and institutions and, of course, without any interference by the office of the attorney- general.”