Sara Netanyahu Appeals Decision in Caretaker Case

In her petition, the prime minister's wife referred, among other claims, to a former employee's remarks about her excessive consumption of alcohol.

Sara Netanyahu at the Knesset, January 31, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

The National Labor Court on Tuesday heard Sara Netanyahu’s appeal against the decision not to allow her to appeal an earlier ruling in the matter of Meni Naftali, the former head caretaker at the prime minister’s official residence.

At the beginning of the hearing the panel of judges, led by court president Judge Yigal Flitman, suggested that Netanyahu present her arguments during the state’s appeal of the ruling, but Naftali’s attorney Nava Pinchuk objected. The court will rule on the matter at a later date.

Netanyahu sought, through her attorney Yossi Cohen, to appeal a ruling relating to her in the decision in Naftali’s case, even though she was not a party in that case. In her petition she referred, among other claims, to Naftali’s remarks about her excessive consumption of alcohol, reaching three bottles of champagne a day.

“This is someone who can’t be believed at all,” said Cohen. “It’s well known that an average person, certainly someone with the body weight of the plaintiff, cannot consume three bottles of champagne a day, particularly not while working as an expert psychologist in the public system, while fulfilling other tasks associated with her role, someone who manages the household with a ‘heavy hand,’ as the court ruled erroneously.”

Last May the National Labor Court ruled that Mrs. Netanyahu cannot appeal the ruling in Naftali’s case. Court registrar Kamel Abu Kaoud rejected her request out of hand since she was not a respondent in that case.

“She was not a side in the case and was brought to testify only in order to assist the court in ascertaining the truth in Naftali’s petition. Her personal matter was not the subject of discussion and her personal responsibility for his employment conditions was not determined,” wrote the registrar.

He added, “even though Mrs. Netanyahu contributed significantly to the abusive work environment, the court’s rulings did not affect her rights or duties. She had no right to foster an abusive environment and she had a duty to maintain decent employment conditions before the ruling, as she continues to have, even though it was ruled that she had not acted according to expectations of someone who uses the services of others.”

In February 2016 the Jerusalem Labor Court ruled that the state must pay Naftali 170,000 shekels ($47,000) due to abusive employment conditions at the residence and his having been misled with regard to an opportunity for permanent employment there. State prosecutors appealed some judicial aspects of the ruling and Netanyahu appealed some factual rulings concerning herself.

The state objected to Naftali being awarded 80,000 shekels for emotional damage, since the ruling was based on a bill that had not been submitted for a final reading. The judge believed that even so, “there was no reason not to file a complaint against abusive employment conditions or to be awarded compensation if the petition were granted. Rulings in sexual harassment cases were made before a specific law was legislated against such behavior.”