Police on Sunday said they were investigating whether two employees at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence gave false testimony in a civil case against his wife, Sara Netanyahu — reportedly in order to help her fend off accusations of mistreating a housekeeper.
Sara Netanyahu faces a civil lawsuit from former employee Shira Raban, who claims the premier’s wife mistreated her during a brief stint working at the residence. Raban seeks $63,000 in damages over alleged mistreatment and harassment.
Israeli police confirmed an investigation “is being conducted with the approval of the Attorney General and the supervision of the State Attorney’s Office.”
They did not say if Sara Netanyahu was a target of the investigation.
According to Channel 13, Liora Babian — one of two workers who testified on Sara Netanyahu’s behalf — confessed to the legal adviser of the Prime Minister’s Office that she had lied in an affidavit countering the claims of Raban’s mistreatment.
The second employee stands by her account.
The legal adviser informed the state prosecutor of the development, prompting the police investigation, which was approved by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, according to the television report. Prosecutors then asked the court to delay the proceedings by a month to enable the police investigation to uncover evidence.
The report did not specify whether Babian claimed to submit the affidavit of her own volition or faced pressure to back Sara Netanyahu’s account.
But Channel 12 TV said two employees at the residence were allegedly pressured to give false testimony in Sara Netanyahu’s favor.
The second worker, identified only as N., told investigators: “You are chasing after [Benjamin] Netanyahu, you are seeking to bring him down. I stand behind my affidavit. Every word of it is true,” according to Channel 13.
Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yossi Cohen, condemned police and the attorney general for permitting the investigation, accusing them of pursuing a witch hunt against the prime minister and his wife.
“In the most unusual fashion, police have intervened in a civil lawsuit and opened a criminal investigation in another trumped up case against the prime minister’s wife,” he said.
“Mandelblit is subjugating the Israel Police to the obsessive and systematic hunt of the Netanyahus in an attempt to bring down the prime minister,” he said.
The attorney general on Sunday night dismissed Cohen’s criticism as “lies and slander” and said he would not be deterred.
Several former employees have claimed mistreatment and abuse by the prime minister’s wife. The official residence’s former caretaker successfully sued her for verbal and emotional abuse, as did another former worker.
Mrs. Netanyahu has called former prime minister’s residence employee Raban, who is suing her for abusive work conditions, a liar, and accused her of trying to extort the country.
Raban, an ultra-Orthodox mother of three, worked as a cleaner at the Netanyahus’ official residence in Jerusalem for a month in 2017, when she was 24.
She alleges that the prime minister’s wife insulted her relentlessly throughout her short tenure. She filed her lawsuit shortly after leaving her position, seeking NIS 225,000 ($64,000) in damages.
Netanyahu has asserted that during the period Raban worked at the residence, the prime minister and his family were hardly ever there.
Netanyahu allegedly forbade the former staffer to eat, drink, or rest, and she was required to change her clothes dozens of times a day. She was also required to wash her hands about 100 times a day with hot water, and was expected to dry them with a towel separate from the one used by the Netanyahu family, the lawsuit charges.
In June 2019, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing public funds as part of a plea deal in a case involving allegations she illegally procured and then misreported catering services at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
The agreement saw Netanyahu escape a conviction of aggravated fraud, but confess to a lesser charge of taking advantage of a mistake. She was ordered to pay NIS 55,000 ($15,210) to the state — NIS 10,000 as a fine, and the rest as restitution.
The prime minister is also currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three criminal cases. He denies the charges against him.
Original: TOI Staff