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Alleging abuse, former maid sues the Israeli prime minister's wife for damages

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01/27/2010 08:24 PM
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Alleging abuse, former maid sues the Israeli prime minister's wife for damages
Alleging abuse, former maid sues the Israeli prime minister's wife for damages
By: Lisa Goldman send a private message
Tel Aviv : Israel | about 5 hours ago
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Views: 1,788

A former maid has filed suit against the Israeli prime minister's wife, Sarah Netanyahu, claiming mistreatment and even abuse.

Lillian Peretz alleges Mrs. Netanyahu paid her less than minimum wage, forced her to work unpaid overtime and subjected her to humiliating verbal abuse. She claims that the prime minister's wife forced her to shower several times a day, to address her at all times as 'Mrs. Sara Netanyahu' and to work on the Sabbath, even though Ms. Peretz is an observant Jew.

Ms. Peretz is suing the Netanyahu family for $80,000 in damages.

Mrs. Netanyahu issued a statement denying the accusations. She had treated Ms. Peretz "with warmth and love," she wrote, citing a newspaper article in which the former maid said she had resigned from the Netanyahus' employ "with love and admiration."

A disgruntled maid would be a minor scandal for most public figures, but this is not the first time Sara Netanyahu has been accused of mistreating her staff or of behaving in a capricious and imperious manner.

During her husband's previous term as prime minister, from 1996-1990, Mrs. Netanyahu was so frequently accused of abusing her staff and behaving inappropriately that she became a real liability to the prime minster. Her name, usually enunciated as 'Saraleh,' a patronizing Yiddish diminutive, was a punchline for jokes and political satire.

Mrs. Netanyahu, a former flight attendant who is now a practicing child psychologist, has also frequently been accused of meddling in state affairs and of having too strong an influence on her husband's government-related decisions.

In response to the nearly gleeful media outcry at the latest scandal surrounding 'Saraleh,' Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin Netanyahu rose to his wife's defense. At a press conference during an official visit to Germany, he called the media's coverage of the affair "an unrestrained and unjustified attack" on his wife. Admonishing the media to leave his family out of the line of fire, he said that his wife was a supportive partner who helped him to be a better person, but he denied that she interfered in state affairs. Leave my wife alone, he said. Direct your criticism at me instead.

Sima Kadmon, a veteran reporter for Yedioth Aharonoth, Israel's largest daily, writes in a long response that the prime minister is lying. "When Netanyahu claims that Sarah is being picked on unjustly, he knows this is not the truth." Ms. Kadmon writes that dozens of people in the prime minister's office, including those closest to him, have leaked stories of Sarah Netanyahu's inappropriate behavior for years, 'out of concern' for the prime minister and his ability to run the country. "The time has come," writes Ms. Kadmon, "To look into how [Mrs. Netanyahu's] unbalanced conduct...affects [the people of Israel].

In fact, all those leaks to which Ms. Kadmon refers were a prominent characteristic of the first Netanyahu adminstration. Since 'Bibi' was re-elected last year, he has kept a tight lid on leaks and his wife has kept a low profile.

Gideon Levy, a prominent columnist for Haaretz newspaper, is no fan of the Netanyahu administration. In fact, he writes frequently about how its policies are bringing about the imminent downfall of the state. But he has become, in a roundabout way, Mrs. Netanyahu's most unlikely defender.She may not be a very appealing character, he writes in a recent column, but "her public treatment is tainted by more than a hint of despicable male chauvinism."

The scandal has dominated headlines all week, competing only with Haiti for space on the front page. But now it appears that the Netanyahus are fighting back. Ben Caspit, a well-known political reporter with Maariv newspaper, accused the Netanyahus of firing a 70 year-old gardener, a bereaved father (meaning his son was killed in active service) "who used to rake leaves and carry out basic gardening chores for less than minimum wage."

In response, the Netanyahus are suing Maariv for libel, demanding an apology and NIS 1 million (about $250,000) in damages.

Ami Kaufman, an Israeli blogger and news editor who has worked for some of Israel's best-known newspapers, sums up his opinion of Mrs. Netanyahu in a post that parodies a famous British political satire show called "Yes, Prime Minister." In this case, the title of the post is "Yes, Mrs. Sara Netanyahu." The prime minister's wife is portrayed as a volatile, unbalanced woman who must be placated and controlled, lest she jeopardize her husband's political career.

"Oh, give me a break," writes Mr. Kaufman, in response to a commenter who suggests Mrs. Netanyahu is being unfairly criticized, "She's nuts! It's not like it's the first time she's doing something like this, anyway. The woman has a history..."

The prime minister and his wife are currently in Poland, to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp.

[link to www.allvoices.com]