Sara Netanyahu: We Weren't the Strong Ones in the House

Prime minister's wife testifies against housekeeper, who is suing for back pay.

The prime minister's family rarely went to their home in Caesarea because their housekeeper, Lillian Peretz, made it uncomfortable, Sara Netanyahu told the Haifa Labor Court on Sunday.

Netanyahu was testifying as part of a NIS 374,000 lawsuit Peretz filed against her, claiming that the prime minister's wife underpaid Peretz, did not pay her overtime for working on Saturdays and did not pay her national insurance or transportation. Peretz filed the lawsuit two years ago, and it continued this week following a three-month hiatus.

Sara Netanyahu denies Peretz' allegations, and insists that there was not even much work to be done at the house, because it was a vacation home that the family only visited every few weekends. She said one of the reasons they did not go there often was because of Peretz.

"I'd come to relax for a few hours and Peretz would sit down next to me and talk to me about her problems, so I wasn't able to rest," Netanyahu testified. "She talked about her family, her husband and her children. It was preferable to stay in Jerusalem."

'It was better not to complain'

Netanyahu also insisted that it was Peretz who pulled the strings in their employer-employee relationship. For example, the prime minister's wife said Peretz did not ask for permission to take a vacation, but rather announced she was taking time off.

"She said she was taking three weeks and I had no choice. That was her style. When we saw a lot of dead cockroaches in the shower and we saw the plaintiff's temperament, I said it was better not to complain. We were weren't the strong and controlling ones in the house."

Netanyahu tried to emphasize to the court that she treated Peretz more generously than is usual for an employer. Among other things, she said, she did not keep track of Peretz' work hours and paid her full salary regardless of how much she worked.

That salary was only about NIS 2,000 a month, but Netanyahu said that was because she hardly did any work. "I told [Peretz] it was an empty house, that we hardly ever go there and there was no more work to be done at the house because we'd completed it before she arrived," Netanyahu testified. "The design, the pictures and the painting were ready and all that was necessary was to let in the tradesmen ... Therefore I thought NIS 2,000 including transportation was enough, and she agreed."

Netanyahu also said she loaned Peretz thousands of shekels when she went on a vacation in Morocco and that she gave her housekeeper money when her car broke down. "I gave her many presents and to this day not a shekel has been returned to me."

Netanyahu added that Peretz was not asked to cook for the Netanyahu family and their guests in Caesarea. "We were four people and if we hosted someone the cooking wasn't hers," she said. "There were cases when friends came to us on Shabbat and they never even saw [Peretz]." Netanyahu said she washed her own dishes, and that if Peretz came to the house on Saturday night to work, "she didn't even know I'd had friends over."

Netanyahu also tried to prove that the relationship between her and Peretz was very amicable. She showed the court many notes she and Peretz left each other, which began with a cordial "Good morning."

"Peretz once told me she used to talk about how modest I am," Netanyahu told the court, adding that on their anniversary, she and her husband only asked for salad and an omelet, instead of a special breakfast.

However she also made it clear that Peretz had slandered her and would pay for that. "She said things about spilling blood. We will also conduct the second trial and the day will come when I will explain this in court," Netanyahu said, referring to a NIS 600,000 counter-suit she filed against Peretz in March for defamation, invasion of privacy and breach of confidentiality.

Like sisters

The Netanyahu family secretary, Hani Dayan-Bleiweiss, also testified on behalf of her boss. Dayan-Bleiweiss said that Netanyahu and Peretz were good friends, and she would call Sara by her first name, and say to her "hello Sara kappara," a popular Israeli term of endearment. "For Sara [Peretz] was like a sister, like family, and both of them told me this," Dayan-Bleiweiss said, noting that Peretz would ask Netanyahu for advice on her personal problems.

She also told the court that Peretz used the Israeli slang for goofing off, lhistalbet, to describe her work in the Netanyahu home. "Peretz would sit around by the pool with coffee or yogurt ... or deal with her personal matters," she added. Dayan-Bleiweiss added that Peretz did not complain about her pay and was hoping to start working at the Prime Minister's Office. "She thought she would be a office worker, with a job slot and a pension. She had it good with Sara. She'd say, 'I came because of Bibi and I'm staying for Sara."

Oded Ben Zeev, a neighbor of the Netanyahu family in Caesarea, also testified, as did the family's accountant.

At the end of the session it was determined that the summations in the case will be submitted in October and that judges will hand down a verdict in November.