April 10, 2014 / 1:11 PM / 5 years ago

Former household staffer says was insulted by Netanyahu's wife

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A former maintenance man at Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence has filed a lawsuit alleging abusive conduct by the prime minister’s wife, Sara, another in a series of complaints faced by Israel’s first lady.

Sara Netanyahu (C), wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, applauds as her husband addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

Aides to the Netanyahu family issued a statement denying Guy Eliahu’s allegations, calling his lawsuit “a continuation of an organized and orchestrated campaign to recruit embittered former employees” to sue the Israeli leader and damage him politically.

A copy of the lawsuit provided on Thursday to Reuters by Eliahu’s attorneys, said Sara Netanyahu had chided him with the remark “you’re not elegant” and once summoned him back to the residence after midnight to complain that he had not said “goodnight” to the family and demand he heat up some soup.

Eliahu, the court papers said, was forced to work “inhuman hours and endure extreme mood changes and inappropriate behavior” by Sara Netanyahu.

Eliahu is seeking 500,000 shekels ($144,000) in damages in the lawsuit, which also focuses on what he alleged was failure to keep a pledge to grant him civil service status which would have afforded him better pension rights and other work conditions.

Sara Netanyahu has long been dogged by what family spokesmen have decried as an undeserved reputation for imperiousness. Although she appears at many official functions at her husband’s side, she speaks little in public and has made no comment on the new allegations.

In 2010, a housekeeper accused Sara Netanyahu of abusive behavior toward her in a lawsuit, which was settled out of court.

Another former housekeeping staff member filed a lawsuit last month saying he had been subjected to scoldings by the first lady, whom he alleged had once called him at 3 a.m. to tell him off for buying milk packaged in a plastic bag rather than in a carton.

The man, Meni Naftali, a Jew of Middle Eastern ancestry, alleged Sara Netanyahu also had berated him with an ethnic slur.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office called the allegations “evil, skewed gossip” designed to reap financial gain.

The prime minister tried to play the lawsuit - in which Naftali is seeking 650,000 shekels ($188,000) - for laughs in an appearance on an Israeli comedy television show last month. On the air, Netanyahu asked for some coffee - in a plastic bag.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Ori Lewis Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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