A lawsuit against the Netanyahu family brought by their former housekeeper has cast a new set of question marks over the conduct of Sarah Netanyahu and her influence on her husband’s policy-making.
Lillian Peretz, who was employed for six years as housekeeper at the Netanyahu weekend home in Caesarea, claimed in the Labour Court lawsuit that she was paid beneath the minimum wage, not given social benefits and forced to work on Saturdays despite being Shabbat-observant.
What has caused a greater stir is her description of Mrs Netanyahu’s behaviour towards her. Mrs Peretz claimed that if she did not follow her employer’s instructions to the letter, Mrs Netanyahu “would lose her temper uncontrollably”.
She said that she was forced to wear four different sets of clothes for the various cleaning tasks, and that Mrs Netanyahu forced her to call her always “Mrs Sarah Netanyahu” and referred to herself as “the mother of Israel”.
The Prime Minister’s Office responded saying that the lawsuit “is full of lies and inventions about the prime minister’s wife and was concocted to damage him and her”.
Critics of Mrs Netanyahu have come forward in recent days, claiming that her behaviour should be of concern as she has inordinate influence over her husband, including in policy areas.
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office, speaking under condition of anonymity, said that “Sarah goes over important speeches and meets senior advisers before their appointments to check them out.”
In his only personal response to the attacks on his wife, Mr Netanyahu asked the media to “concentrate your fire on me, not my family. My wife does not run the country, the only way in which she tries to influence me is to make me more attentive to people’s needs.”
Friends of the Netanyahu couple blamed the two newspapers which gave the widest cover to the lawsuit, Yediot Ahronot and Maariv, as acting out of commercial interests. Both newspapers have seen their profits squeezed over recent months by the success of the freely distributed newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, owned by Mr Netanyahu’s supporter, the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.