In an iconic comment, Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi and the education minister, described his relations with Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, during his period as her husband’s chief of staff, as a “course in combating terrorism.” A few years after Bennett made his remark (and retracted it) – the Jerusalem Labor Court has now ruled in the case of another Naftali, first name Meni, and shown that Bennett’s quip was not off the mark.
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People who have the misfortune to work in the Prime Minister’s Residence live in a milieu of terror in its classic sense: a place in which fear and dread are imposed by means of violence, force and threats. This is no longer an accusation or an allegation, it’s a judgment that appears to have been written with relative restraint in deference to the Lady. But the overall picture is that of a house from which any mother who’s fearful for her child’s health would distance him. It’s a place where madness reigns, where humiliation, insults and bloodcurdling screams over petty matters are apparently routine.
And by the way, it’s not only the employees in the official residence or regular visitors who have felt, and will never forget, the lash of Sara Netanyahu’s repertoire of shouts. Quite a few pirate recordings of her have been making the rounds lately, and have been heard by some appalled audiences. You have to hear it to believe it.
Jerusalem Labor Judge Dita Pruginin granted Naftali, formerly chief caretaker of the residence, damages of 170,000 shekels ($43,700). Anyone who reads the ruling will probably think Naftali should have received 10 times that amount. Not only for the hell he went through while working there, but also for the damage and loss of income he’s suffered since he dared to open his mouth and file the suit. He’s been subjected to systematic character assassination by a herd of lawyers, PR people and the sycophants of the compassionate child psychologist and her hubby. Not to mention the Likud politicians, MKs and ministers who ganged up on Naftali as though he were the kingpin of a crime family. After the verdict was announced, however, the “heroes” fell silent.
The prime minister himself joined in the mudslinging against Naftali. You have to know Netanyahu close-up: He’s not the cursing, shaming, slandering type. There’s something of the gentleman about him, something that flinches from confrontation. In the case of Naftali, Bibi had no choice. He was ordered to smear, and smear he did. Otherwise he too would have faced a bitter fate upon returning home after a day at the office.
In an unprecedented turn, the Netanyahus waited hours before responding to the judgment. Their spin on the event was missing from the Wednesday evening newscasts, which broadcast excerpts from the press conference held by Naftali and his lawyers. It wasn’t until almost midnight that the couple issued a statement, and one worded more softly than in the past. Still, they had the gall to state that what the ruling describes is “far from the reality” that exists in the Prime Minister’s Residence.
On second thought, they’re right: The reality there is probably even gloomier. Not everything has been revealed. Maybe now that the barrier of fear has fallen and the conspiracy of silence has been shattered, more employees will muster the courage to demand what’s coming to them. Maybe now the well-informed deputy director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ezra Saidoff, will sing everything he knows to the police.