Is Netanyahu the Queen of Mean?

By Nathan Burstein

Published January 20, 2010, issue of January 29, 2010.
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Israel’s first lady is a Queen of Mean, according to a new lawsuit.

Dirty Deeds?: A former housekeeper claims she was ‘mistreated and abused’ by Sara Netanyahu.
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Dirty Deeds?: A former housekeeper claims she was ‘mistreated and abused’ by Sara Netanyahu.

In Tel Aviv court papers made public January 15, a former housekeeper claims that Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “mistreated and abused” her during five years of service, paying her less than minimum wage and subjecting her to a long list of indignities and unreasonable demands.

Comparing the case to a “Cinderella story,” the lawsuit seeks damages of 300,000 shekels (just under $80,000), and accuses Sara Netanyahu of a variety of misdeeds, among them:

• Demanding that the housekeeper, Lillian Peretz, address her employer only as “Mrs. Sara Netanyahu,” and inflicting verbal abuse when she failed to do so.

• Requiring Peretz to supply herself with four uniforms: one each for bathroom cleaning, general cleaning, laundry work and cooking.

• Insisting that Peretz be available 24 hours a day and on holidays, despite her observance of Shabbat and other mitzvot.

• Failing to reimburse Peretz for expenses and to pay for all the hours of her work.

Largely shielded from the press during her husband’s current term as prime minister, Sara Netanyahu has not commented publicly on the lawsuit. Curiosity about the case followed her husband on a state visit to Berlin, where, at a January 18 press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he directed the Israeli media to “leave my wife and children alone.” Expressing confidence that his wife would be exonerated, the prime minister — a peripheral figure in the legal complaint — ignored questions about whether the suit might be politically motivated.

Peretz denied being a supporter of Kadima, the largest opposition party in the Knesset. “Nothing political is connected to this,” she told a reporter for Channel 2 News.

A psychologist and former flight attendant, Sara Netanyahu endured a rocky relationship with the Israeli media during her husband’s first stint as prime minister in the 1990s, including reports that she had been abusive toward assistants.


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