Group Wants AG to Reopen Ehud Barak Foreign Worker Case

Housekeeper interviewed on radio despite claims she couldn't be located.

An advocacy group petitioned the High Court on Sunday to compel Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to take criminal or administrative action against Defense Minister Ehud Barak for allegedly employing an illegal foreign worker in his Tel Aviv home.

Last week Weinstein ordered the case against Barak's wife, Nili Priel, closed after authorities failed to locate the worker. Weinstein justified his decision by saying that a conviction cannot be based solely on Priel's admission.

Ehud Barak and his wife Nili Priel 2008 (Archive / Alon Ron)
Archive / Alon Ron

In its petition, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel asked for a new file to be opened into the case, and for Barak to be questioned. It also asks that legal or administrative action be taken against both the defense minister and his wife for violating labor laws.

Israel Radio's Carmela Menashe on Sunday broadcast an interview with the worker, identified as Diana, and not Virginia as originally reported. Menashe had earlier boasted that she could locate the woman even though neither the Shin Bet nor the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry had managed to do so.

In the interview, the woman said Barak and his wife treated her well, and that Barak's bodyguards had never examined her or sought her personal details.

Raz Nizri, Weinstein's senior assistant, said on Sunday that an immigration official from the Interior Ministry made contact with Menashe recently and asked for her assistance in locating the woman.

Menashe, he said, had promised the woman that she would not reveal her identity.

'Unreasonable' decision

Moshe Pollak, who filed the petition on the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel's behalf, called Weinstein's decision "unreasonable." In many past instances, Pollak said, the state has begun criminal or administrative proceedings against employers even without having identified one of the central figures in the case.

In December, Priel reportedly hired a foreign worker who did not have permission to work in Israel. The woman was employed twice a week for several months, and worked at large social events held by the defense minister and his wife. Priel has admitted employing the woman, but said she had no information on how she could be located.

An individual with knowledge of the details of the affair said that Weinstein believes Priel's admission of employing a foreign worker is not enough, and that unless the court can verify the personal details of the worker, no conviction can be reached. In essence, without evidence that could shed light on the migrant's legal status in Israel, authorities cannot pursue criminal charges against anyone employing that individual.

In addition, officials in Weinstein's office sought to avoid setting a precedent of "enlisting" Shin Bet security guards in legal proceedings against the public figures they are charged with protecting. The Shin Bet has indicated it too opposes such a move.

The individual said a similar precedent had already been set in the police case against Moshe Katsav, in which security officials were required to testify on charges against the former president of sexual offenses.