Binyamin and Sara Netanyahu
Binyamin and Sara Netanyahu Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's wife Sara Netanyahu is facing a longstanding court case alleging she verbally abused workers at the Prime Minister's Residence, and after her lawyer defended her on Tuesday the Israel Bar Association issued rare criticism.

The Jerusalem Labor Court on Tuesday awarded former employee Guy Eliyahu $30,000 in damages, after finding Sara Netanyahu guilty of abusive treatment.

Eliyahu, a former maintenance worker, alleged Netanyahu asked him to bring her food, then told him he was making her gain weight. Likewise he claimed she called him back to the residence after midnight so he could heat a bowl of soup, as well as another night because he had not properly said goodnight.

Sara Netanyahu's lawyer Yossi Cohen condemned the judge and the media coverage of the court drama late Tuesday in an interview with Channel 2.

"The judge was not okay, she didn't allow investigating witnesses who wanted to prove that (another complainant ex-employee) Manny Naftali is a known habitual liar, and she didn't manage the trial fairly," accused Cohen, who added he intends to petition the ruling.

Even before the interview Cohen issued a statement to the press, reading: "The true harmful treatment here is by Judge (Dita) Pruginin, who as expected again in a blatant and biased manner ignored the testimony of Mrs. Netanyahu."

"The trial was managed in a one-sided fashion, and Mrs. Netanyahu was not allowed to bring witnesses to take apart the false and wicked claims of Guy Eliyahu," added Cohen.

"Incitement against a judge"

In response to Cohen's criticism of the judge, the Israeli Bar Association on Wednesday morning issued an unusual condemnation of the attorney's statements.

The Bar Association said it "expresses protest" against the statements on Judge Dita Pruginin, saying that "statements such as these from a lawyer in Israel against the court are unacceptable."

"The attempt to besmirch the court and tongue-lash the judge who is doing her work faithfully is not appropriate and does not respect the public of lawyers."

Even as it condemned Cohen, the Bar Association clarified that it was not giving an opinion on the ruling.

"The Bar Association is a central part of the rule of law, and therefore it views defending the legal system and disagreeing with any statements that deviate from the accepted standards of criticism as an obligation on itself," read the statement.

The statement further accused Cohen of "incitement and libel towards a judge, who by the nature of things cannot respond," and said his actions "are not a situation that can be made peace with and accepted, hence this response."

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