The Netanyahu family suffered another legal blow as the National Labor Court granted the prime minister’s former house manager a final victory, dismissing Sara Netanyahu’s appeal of a NIS 170,000 judgment for Meni Naftali due to poor treatment and failure to pay him overtime hours.
In February 2016, the lower Jerusalem Region Labor Court ruled in favor of Naftali and against the state and Sara Netanyahu’s narrative.
Naftali served as manager of the residence from February 2011 to November 2012.
The National Labor Court confirmed the lower court’s ruling that Sara had no right to appeal. Only the state has a right to appeal since the civil damages claim is technically against the state.
Sara had argued that Naftali’s case and the lower court’s ruling included such significant findings against her character, that she should have a right to have them overturned.
In contrast, the National Labor Court said that even as she was at the center of the trial in terms of the narrative, technically she only was a fact-witness and not a defendant in the case.
Technically, the three defendants were the Prime Minister’s Office, a top bureau official Ezra Seidoff and Benjamin Netanyahu himself, although ultimately he played no role in the trial.
In her appeal, Sara said that the lower court “did not allow the appellant [her] to defend herself and caused her injustice in that it ignored on point and explicit testimony in her favor and accepted the testimony of the prosecutor despite the explicit evidence which indicated that he lied.”
There was some legal confusion in the lower court about how much evidence Sara could bring to improve her standing as opposed to just responding to specific allegations Naftali made against her as part of his narrative, but not as a defendant personally on the hook for damages.
Her appeal asked the National Labor Court to send the case back to the lower court with an order to hear additional witnesses and to view additional evidence in her favor or, at the very least, to invalidate the factual findings of the lower court against her.
When the lower court ruled, though noting the money would not be enough to cover all of his needs, Naftali responded jubilantly to the ruling, declaring, “David beat Goliath” and angrily accusing the Netanyahus of blocking him for months from finding work.
In March 2015, Naftali testified against Sara, stating she often drank excessive amounts of alcohol.
During his testimony at the trial on accusations of labor law violations, Naftali claimed that various Prime Minister’s Office officials had broken promises they had allegedly made to him that they would make his house manager position permanent, an upgrade from his status as temporary manager over an extended period.
Naftali also complained that there was an incitement and intimidation campaign against him, including breaking into his home.
In May 2015, Sara testified, rebuking Naftali and the media, saying that nasty rumors had been spread about her by the media for over a year “but until now my voice was not heard.”
She added, “most of the things I see in the media are incorrect.”
She had said, “The baseless lies, slander and mudslinging which Mani Naftali told about the wife of the prime minister in court, who is not even a defendant in his case, are scandalous. Nothing less than that.”
Ultimately though the three person panel of Judge Dita Pruginin, employee representative Natan Mizrahi and employer representative Eliezer Yaari believed Naftali over Sara almost across-the-board.
In their decision, they wrote regarding Sara’s attacks on Naftali that “there was no evidentiary basis in what was presented before us and there was not even an iota of proof to support them.”
Further the court took Sara to task, saying, “it is regrettable that Ms. Netanyahu chose to so severely slander her former employees from the residence without even a minimal evidentiary basis for the claims.”
Generally speaking, the court also slammed Sara as creating a work environment of “exaggerated requests, insults, humiliation and breaking into tantrums.”
There is still an appeal by the state against the lower court Naftali judgment based on legal principles, but that appeal will not all of the factual findings against Sarah.
Separate from all of the above, there is also a potential related criminal proceeding against Sara Netanyahu pending and multiple criminal investigations against Benjamin Netanyahu for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to eventually decide.
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