Sara Netanyahu takes stand, says her blood being spilled in media – Haaretz
Sara Netanyahu appeared in court on Sunday and took the stand in the 1-million-shekel ($258,500) damages suit accusing the Netanyahus of abusing an employee at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
The prime minister’s wife said that “for more than a year, my blood has been spilled publicly by Meni Naftali, with the media’s encouragement,” referring to the former chief caretaker at the prime minister’s official residence.
Earlier on Sunday, Ezra Saidoff, deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office, said he was no longer afraid of Sara Netanyahu.
Saidoff was commenting on the complaint by Naftali, the former chief caretaker at the residence, that he was abused on the job by Sara Netanyahu.
Naftali is suing the state, the Netanyahus and Saidoff in the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court.
On Sunday, Saidoff was asked to respond to testimony that residence employees were afraid of Sara Netanyahu. They were also asked to respond to a statement by another caretaker at the house, Emmanuel Sela, who reportedly said Sara Netanyahu “was a very difficult woman to work with, always applying pressure; someone whose body language showed that she was boiling.”
One of Naftali’s lawyers, Nava Pinchuk-Alexander, asked Saidoff if he was afraid of Sara Netanyahu; when he said he wasn’t, she quoted from testimony that he provided in a 1999 case, when he said he was “very much afraid of her.”
On Sunday, Saidoff replied: “That was 16 years ago. I’ve changed since.”
As Saidoff put it, “It’s possible that there was a misunderstanding between me and her, as well as the excitement of facing her in this position in the first term,” he said, referring to Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister. “Now it’s not the same. I haven’t been afraid.”
Pinchuk-Alexander read freely from Saidoff’s 1999 testimony, in which he recounted a day when Sara Netanyahu wanted him to remain at the residence to oversee repairs. But Saidoff went to Tel Aviv to prepare for the prime minister’s arrival at his office there.
According to the 1999 testimony, the first lady phoned him “hysterical that I needed to come back immediately.” He then informed a deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office that he “could not continue. I was in the car. I was shaking all over. I even started crying.”
On Sunday, Saidoff said he did not remember that testimony. But he said that he had “gone through eight prime ministers and there were eight wives in the Prime Minister’s Residence. I always heard all kinds of different gossip. Not every piece of gossip constitutes a complaint.”
Another defense witness was Ayelet Kadosh, the personnel director at the Prime Minister’s Office. She said the chief caretaker’s job had needed to be filled immediately, “so Naftali was hired to fill the post.” The job description was under review at the time, although Naftali was not informed of this, she said.
Another official at the Prime Minister’s Office, Yaniv Suisa, testified that PMO officials were afraid that Naftali would file suit and therefore paid him about 12,000 shekels.
At a court session in March, the defense grilled Naftali about his past, including court orders barring him from leaving the country due to debts. He was also asked how he had qualified for public housing.
Sara Netanyahu, meanwhile, said Naftali had been aware of the requirements of the job, had expressed a desire to work as many hours as possible and even sometimes worked when his services were not necessary.
Questioned by attorney Naomi Landau, Netanyahu added that most of the things said about her in the media were not true. Questioned why she didn’t fire Naftali, she responded that she was concerned at how the media would react to it.
“Because we are hounded by the media, we are scared. For me, firing the chief caretaker would have meant headlines and I didn’t want them.”
Netanyahu arrived at the court well-prepared and she spoke fluently and eloquently. “The Prime Minister’s Office was threatened and blackmailed for a year-and-a-half,” she said. “All the information is with the office’s legal adviser. I even have SMS messages.”
She added that Naftali spoke bluntly and coarsely, asking her about job positions on Saturdays.
“I told him that on Saturdays, in the few hours I have to be with my husband and children, I don’t want him to sit down next to me and begin asking about job positions,” Netanyahu said. “I told him it had nothing to do with me; that he should discuss it with the Prime Minister’s Office.”
Landau asked her about an incident with a tablecloth during a meal on the patio of the PM’s residence. Netanyahu denied the incident categorically.
“I am a third-generation Holocaust survivor,” she said. “There’s no way that in my family, what I inherited from home, that I would ever pull a tablecloth. It would never happen. It’s not in my DNA.”
“I don’t want to waste state funds; the myth that I enjoy wasting state funds. I remember that Naftali told me we had a right to change the living room curtains. I told him that I was not going to order them. I live in fear of what is done to me and I don’t want to. I won’t do it; particularly with such invasive and evil media.”