Great Britain

Former Netanyahu maid seeks damages over first lady's 'rage'

A former housekeeper at Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence is suing the Israeli prime minister’s wife, Sara, for $190,000 in damages for pain and suffering allegedly caused during her employment there.

The woman’s lawyer, Opheer Shimson, said his client worked at the residence for five months until last November when she was injured in a fall allegedly resulting from what he described as Sara Netanyahu’s tyrannical demands.

He said the woman, an immigrant from France in her mid-50s who wished to keep her identity secret, kept a diary detailing the verbal abuse she received.

“She adores the prime minister and saw her work at his home as a form of national service,” Shimson said. “But she’s been traumatised by her experience. Everyone knew what was going on there and no one can say otherwise.”

Sara Netanyahu has been accused of abusive behaviour toward her personal staff before. This, together with accusations of excessive spending and using public money on her own extravagant personal tastes, has earned her an image as the Israeli Imelda Marcos, the Philippines’ former first lady who became infamous for her collection of designer shoes.

Last year Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing state funds after she reached a plea bargain settling allegations that she overspent $100,000 of state money on lavish meals. She had previously been indicted for alleged graft, fraud and breach of trust.

In 2016 a court ruled that the prime minister’s wife had mistreated a housekeeper and awarded the man $42,000 in damages. Several other employees have accused her of abuse, mistreatment and harassment.

Another pending lawsuit alleges she forbade a former staffer to eat or drink on the job and required her to change her clothes dozens of times a day. The plaintiff, who is also seeking damages, says Sara Netanyahu also required her to wash her hands dozens of times a day and to dry them with towels separate from the ones used by the Netanyahu family.

The Netanyahus have angrily rejected all the charges, calling them part of a media-orchestrated campaign against the family to oust them from power.

Israel heads to the polls next week for its third election in less than a year. Two weeks later, Benjamin Netanyahu is due to go on trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from accusations that he accepted lavish gifts from billionaire friends and promised to promote advantageous legislation for a newspaper in exchange for favourable coverage.

The latest allegations against Sara Netanyahu include details of critical comments she made against some of those who worked for her. Shimson said the housekeeper’s diary would be presented in court as evidence.

“Enough, save me, I want to die, the problem is that I don’t have any choice and everyone knows that,” reads one of the diary entries, first published by Israel’s Channel 12 News. “It’s impossible to live every day with a psychopath. I’m dying to leave before it’s too late.”

In another entry, she said Sara Netanyahu had screamed at her for forgetting to throw out the rubbish, called her stupid and dirty and demanded she take a shower. The woman wrote that Sara Netanyahu had accused her of trying to cause friction with the prime minister.

“She said to me: ‘What do you want? For me to be like you, divorced?’” she wrote. “Even the prime minister told her to stop. She was in a trance. In the afternoon she had a fit, lay down on the ground, screamed and screamed like a lunatic, and shook with rage. She rolled around on the floor and said that all of that was because of me.”

The ruling Likud party denounced the TV report about the lawsuit as a “cruel, false, recycled and gossipy piece that was timed for release on the eve of elections and whose purpose was to harm the Likud.”