Netanyahu Wants Judge to Recuse Herself in Case Involving His Wife

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Sara Netanyahu and her lawyers arrive at court, October 29, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

In an unusual effort to intervene in a judicial proceeding, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called over the weekend for Jerusalem Labor Court Judge Dita Pruginin to recuse herself from hearing a complaint filed by a former employee of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The complaint, filed by Guy Eliyahu, names the Prime Minister’s Office, the office’s Deputy Director General Ezra Saidoff and outsourcing service contractor Cleanor Holding as defendants.

In response to a question posed by Haaretz, the prime minister said he was backing his wife’s position in his personal capacity. Sara Netanyahu has demanded that Judge Pruginin recuse herself and the two other representatives on the panel after the same panel ruled in favor of the residence’s former caretaker Meni Naftali last month.

The first lady asserts that the ruling in the Naftali case was based on findings which also relate to the Eliyahu case — and will therefore lead to a similar ruling in Eliyahu’s favor. She has not been sued in either case, although Netanyahu himself was a defendant in the case filed by Naftali, in which he claimed to have been subjected to intolerable work conditions.

In response to the first lady’s recusal request, the judge requested responses from all the parties to Eliyahu’s case by Wednesday.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying: “The complaints against the prime minister [in the Naftali case] have been rejected. The prime minister is not a party from a legal standpoint. It should be understood that in his personal capacity, he supports the entire step taken by his wife.”

Contrary to what is implied in the statement, the court ruled against the three defendants, including the Prime Minister’s Office, with regard to a large portion of the complaint brought by Nafali, awarding him damages of 170,000 shekels ($44,200). Both sides to the case, including Sara Netanyahu herself, have appealed the decision.

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