Netanyahus Sue Israeli Paper for NIS 1 Million Libel Damages

Suit comes after article alleged the premier and his wife fired elderly gardener from their service.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah have filed a lawsuit for libel against the Ma'ariv daily newspaper on Monday, following an article it published late last week.

The NIS 1 million suit was submitted following an article in last weekend's edition of the paper, which dealt with an alleged firing of a gardener employed in the Netanyahu household.

According to the article, the premier and his wife fired the gardener, "an elderly Jew, about 70-years-old, a bereaved father, who used to rake leaves and partake in other basic gardening chores for less than minimum wage."

The Netanyahus' attorney, David Shimron, claimed on Monday that the man was in fact still employed, and was not fired as the article indicated.

Earlier, during his visit to Berlin, Netanyahu made his first public defense of his wife Sarah amid recently surfaced allegations that she mistreated a former employee of the Netanyahu couple.

"Direct your criticism at me and leave my wife and children be," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters.

In a suit filed last week by Lillian Peretz, 43, the plaintiff had sleeked NIS 300,000 in compensation for alleged unpaid wages and severance pay.

Peretz had also claimed that social benefits were not paid on her net salary, which ranged between NIS 2,500 and NIS 3,800 per month.

The Prime Minister's Office had already denied allegations filed against the premier's wife by a former housekeeper earlier this week, saying the charges "were false and filled with slander and fiction regarding the prime minister's wife, meant to harm them both."

"The plaintiff had a received warm and loving treatment from Mrs. Netanyahu, which made her stay with the Netanyahu family for six years," the PMO added.