Sara Netanyahu Fails to Appear Before Court in Labor Abuse Suit

Judge says 'no reason' the prime minister's wife should skip key hearing, rebukes lawyer's 'outrageous' reasoning ■ Fourth and final day of prime minister's pre-indictment hearing on corruption charges begins

Sara Netanyahu in court, Jerusalem, June 16, 2019.
Emil Salman

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, skipped on Monday a key hearing in a lawsuit filed against her by a former staffer who alleged abuse by Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Residence.

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The president of the Jerusalem District Labor Court, Judge Eyal Avrahami, harshly rebuked Netanyahu's legal team, stressing that "there is no reason she shouldn't be here," as Netanyahu was expected to testify.

A spokesperson on behalf of Netanyahu responded and said that she "respects the court."  Also adding "in conversations last night and this morning with Attorney Yossi Cohen, she was explicitly told that she should not attend today's hearing and should only attend the next scheduled hearing."

Monday is also the fourth and final day of Prime Minister Netanyahu's hearing in his corruption cases, held at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, which will determine whether he would be indicted for bribery and fraud and breach of trust.

About an hour before the hearing on the charges pressed by former household staff Shira Raban, the prime minister's wife had asked not to show up, despite the judge's warning that it would render void a statement filed by the defense on Sunday.

Raban, worked at the Jerusalem residence in September 2017, is seeking 225,000 shekels ($64,000) in damages from Netanyahu and the Prime Minister's Office for abusive employment conditions.

Netanyahu's attorney, Yossi Cohen, argued that she can testify on Tuesday instead. "There were supposed to be many other witnesses, and so we thought there wouldn't be any time left to question her anyway," he told the court, to which Judge Avrahmi said: "You are saying outrageous things. It's not for you to decide how long witnesses will be questioned."

Attorney Yossi Cohen at the Jerusalem District Labor Court, October 7, 2019.
Emil Salman

Avrahami further said that Cohen should know the plaintiff and defendant testify first, but the lawyer said that it was Netanyahu's "right to hear the other testimonies first." The judge insisted: "I've known the protocol for 30 years and I know nothing of this sort."

Raban's attorney, Naomi Landau, said she was "ready to question her, and there's no option of questioning other witnesses before the defendant herself."

Landau also represented two other former employees at the Prime Minister's Residence who had won lawsuits against Netanyahu over abusive employment conditions.

In an affidavit filed in May, Raban said she had to "flee for her life" after less than a month, over what she called "despicable, inhuman, threatening and humiliating" conditions, including an attempt to hit her.

Netanyahu rejected Raban's claims and told the court in response that she was "hallucinating and in urgent need of a psychological diagnosis." She further argued that Raban's "innocence and lack of understanding have been used to promote … hidden agendas."

In a June hearing, attorney Cohen repeatedly said Raban was lying and argued she had been paid to testify against the prime minister's wife. He also asked her several times during her questioning whether she was sane.