Netanyahu’s wife admits criminal wrongdoing in meals catering case

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives in the Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019

Netanyahu’s wife admits criminal wrongdoing in meals catering case

  • Sara Netanyahu was ordered to pay a fine and compensation
  • Netanyahu was originally charged in June 2018

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, appeared in court on Sunday to admit criminal wrongdoing over the misuse of state funds to order catered meals, in a plea bargain carrying no jail time.
Under the agreement, a fraud charge was reduced to a lesser offense and she will pay the state 45,000 shekels ($12,490) in reimbursement and a 10,000 shekel ($2,775) fine.
According to the original indictment, Sara Netanyahu, along with a government employee, fraudulently obtained from the state more than $100,000 for hundreds of meals supplied by restaurants, bypassing regulations that prohibit the practice if a cook is employed at home.
Smiling broadly, Netanyahu faced a phalanx of cameras in the courthouse before the session got under way.
At the hearing, a judge ratified the plea deal, convicting her of the criminal charge of intentionally exploiting another person’s mishandling of state money for her own benefit, after prosecutors dropped the more serious offense of fraud.
“Do you understand what you admitted to?” the judge asked Netanyahu, 60. “Yes, I do,” she replied.
Israel’s YNet website published a photograph of what it said was a note from her husband, who was not in the court, that was passed to her during the session. “We will get through this, too. Be strong!!,” it said.
While the deal lifts a legal cloud over Sara Netanyahu, it has no direct bearing on the prime minister’s own troubles — three corruption cases in which he has denied wrongdoing.
In February, Israel’s attorney general said he intended to file fraud and bribery charges against Benjamin Netanyahu, pending a pre-trial hearing.
That session is set for early October, two weeks after a Sept. 17 general election that follows a ballot in April in which Netanyahu declared victory but failed to form a government.
In explaining the plea agreement to the court, prosecutors cited Mrs.Netanyahu’s clean record, the public humiliation she has suffered as a result of the case and the time that has passed — up to nine years — since the crimes were committed.
The government employee charged along with Netanyahu also reached an agreement with the prosecution and was fined 10,000 shekels.
Sara Netanyahu has elicited a multitude of headlines in the past over what family spokesmen have decried as an undeserved reputation for imperiousness.
Three years ago, a labor court found she had insulted and raged at household staff, and it awarded about $40,000 to the former chief caretaker of the prime minister’s residence in a civil suit against the government over alleged mistreatment and unfulfilled promises of tenure.


Israeli lawmakers submit bill to dissolve parliament

Updated 57 min 35 sec ago

Israeli lawmakers submit bill to dissolve parliament

  • Israel has been mired in political deadlock for months
  • Lawmakers from the rival sides together tabled the bill

JERUSALEM: Israeli legislators submitted a bill Tuesday that would dissolve parliament and trigger unprecedented third national elections in less than a year.
Israel has been mired in political deadlock for months.
With the two largest parties, Likud and Blue and White, unable to form a power-sharing agreement ahead of a Wednesday deadline, lawmakers from the rival sides together tabled the bill.
It is expected to go to a vote in parliament on Wednesday, setting the date for the next election on March 2.
“Under the exceptional circumstances that have emerged, and after two adjacent election campaigns in which no government was formed, the dissolution of the 22nd Knesset is being proposed,” the bill reads.
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main rival Benny Gantz have been able to form a coalition government after two inconclusive elections. Polls have predicted the third vote is unlikely to produce dramatically different results.
The legislation is something of a formality. The allotted period for forming a government following September’s election expires at midnight on Wednesday. Without a coalition deal, elections would have been automatically triggered later in March.
Each of this year’s elections, and their subsequent coalition jockeying, have largely been a referendum on Netanyahu, who was recently indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three corruption affairs.
Blue and White’s Gantz has refused to sit in a Netanyahu-led coalition, citing the long-serving leader’s legal troubles. Netanyahu has refused to step down, still overwhelmingly backed by his Likud party and his adoring base.