Opinion

Will Sara Netanyahu Foot the Bill for Abusing Employees?

The State Prosecutor's Office insists the Israeli public is not interested in whether the prime minister's wife pays compensation to former workers. But it would say that.

Sara Netanyahu, right, at an official ceremony in Eilat, March 7, 2017.
Yair Sagi

The State Prosecutor’s Office is not stupid. It knows it is ridiculous to say the Israeli public is not interested in the question of funding compensation payments to former employees of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence.

Will hundreds of thousands of shekels come from the accountant general’s coffers – i.e., from the pocket of every Israeli – or will they come from the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, who, it was ruled, treated her employees insultingly. According to the prosecution, the public interest goes against what many regard as natural justice.

Why would the prosecution rely on such a baseless, infuriating reason in response to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government to the High Court of Justice? It is because the prosecution is arrogant and entrenched in its position, unable to admit it made a mistake in previous rounds over the same affair.

That arrogance has two layers. First, the position itself and, second, within the prosecution, where it was raised to a level of almost untouchable sanctity.

The prosecution was good enough to concede that the idea of demanding payment from Netanyahu herself was not entirely baseless: It was considered in internal discussions. Only after six months of indecision and “authorization at higher levels” was it decided to leave Mrs. Netanyahu alone. From then on, anyone who had the gall to claim the idea had merit became an apostate. A “margin of reasonableness” was constructed around the idea, and the justices were asked to remember how rarely this wall is breached.

The State Prosecutor’s Office is very generous with public money when it comes to Sara Netanyahu – the polar opposite of its all-out war against employees and citizens conniving, it believes, to receive money they do not deserve.

That is precisely the way it fought the employees of the prime minister’s official residence – who launched a campaign three years ago to obtain rights they had been denied – so as to deter their fearful colleagues. State money would not go to waste.

Jerusalem Regional Labor Court handed the prosecution a stinging defeat. It determined that because of Netanyahu, the state must pay the employees.

The National Labor Court, where mutual petitions are being heard on legal grounds, the prosecution did the math and does not dispute the facts, which means it confirms there is a direct connection between Netanyahu’s conduct and the outcome.

But the prosecution has had difficulty coming to terms with its defeat. It is vengeful. Who is it taking revenge against? Not the plaintiffs, whose victory the prosecution hasn’t come to terms with, but knows it must play the game and bow its head before the court. Rather, it wants revenge against those who harshly criticized its actions in this case and others involving the Netanyahus. If the critics are in favor of Netanyahu paying – the prosecution is against it. The reasons will be revealed later.

In addition to the “insignificant public interest,” two contrived reasons are particularly striking. “It is not right and possibly not possible” to pursue this suit, the prosecution clearly hints. Why is it not possible? Who is it impossible for – the plaintiff or the respondent? Is the diagnosis to be found in the office of Netanyahu’s lawyer, Dr. Jacob Weinroth, with a copy to former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein? An explanation, we may assume, will be demanded orally in the High Court hearing.

To absolve Mrs. Netanyahu of responsibility, she is deemed “analogous to” a civil servant – and the state’s broad shoulders bear the financial outcome of a civil servant’s negligence. When there is a desire to go easy on her, she has the rights of a state employee but not the obligations of a civil servant.

In recent years, the prosecution has become morally corrupt and ingratiated itself horribly with the Netanyahu family.

The public has a huge interest not only that justice be done with regard to the ruling family, but also in airing out the law enforcement system and removing the bad odor that has spread in it.