Netanyahu sues media over wife's staff abuse claims

By Anshel Pfeffer, January 28, 2010

Pressure piled up on PM Binyamin Netanyahu this week as it emerged that another household employee is suing his wife, Sarah. The Netanyahus responded with a libel suit and a complaint to the Israeli Press Council.

Two weeks ago, the former housekeeper of the couple’s weekend home in Caesarea filed a lawsuit which included potentially embarrassing claims about Mrs Netanyahu’s behaviour at home. This was soon followed by a slew of media reports focusing on her personal relationships with members of staff and her influence on the prime minister’s policy-making.

Among the new allegations to emerge was a report that Mrs Netanyahu demanded to keep the clothes that she had been given to wear on the Likud election broadcasts. In addition it was revealed that another housekeeper had sued the Netanyahus over a financial disagreement, but the case is still covered by a gag-order.

So far, the stream of allegations has not spilled over to the political arena, with Mr Netanyahu’s rivals in the Knesset holding their fire.

The Netanyahus hit back with a libel suit against Maariv newspaper for reporting that they had fired an elderly gardener working at the PM’s residence. They also lodged a complaint with the Press Council against Yediot Achronot, which had not obtained their response to the first report on the housekeeper’s claims.

An aide to Mr Netanyahu said that “it is incredible how well Bibi is holding up. Although this is bothering Sarah very much, he has not cancelled one meeting. They met with their lawyers and advisers outside his normal work hours to prepare their media and legal strategy. Besides that you can’t see that it affects him while he is at the office.”

Last updated: 4:40pm, January 28 2010