(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s series of decisions on Friday regarding Sara Netanyahu and the seven Prime Minister’s Residence Affairs finally brought her case into focus after years of debate.
The first point is that the crux of the expected trial against Netanyahu for allegedly fraudulently obtaining NIS 359,000 of prepared food using state funds will be whether she can create enough doubt about whether or not she knew about the orders.
Many famous people have plead ignorance of everything that was going on around them and being done by their underlings in plain sight and lost in court.
This is especially true with strong micromanaging personalities, which at least fits Netanyahu according to civil labor courts proceedings.
Netanyahu will try to pin the blame on former house manager Meni Naftali in the media.
But in court he is only a shield for part of the orders. In court, she will need to blame at least two other house managers, her personal staff and deputy prime minister’s office director-general Ezra Seidoff.
This will be a tall order and an uphill battle for her.
The second point is that she got off easy overall.
With seven affairs, Seidoff being indicted in four of them and Mandelblit making some very non-legal sounding excuses for letting her off in others, her being indicted in only one is a big win for her.
Third comes back to Seidoff. Naftali’s testimony against Netanyahu may be part of the key to indicting in the Prepared Food Affair, but Seidoff taking a hit for the team is the only reason why she is not completely sunk in the four key affairs.
Though right now he has sworn he will not cut a deal and turn against her – Shula Zaken swore the same for Ehud Olmert before the trial went downhill and she was looking at years in jail.
If Seidoff starts losing big - and the evidence against him is thick - he may flip. If he flips against Sara, her situation will get much worse and fast.
Advice to her lawyers from Olmert’s lawyers post-Zaken – only say nice things about Seidoff on TV.
Fourth, Mandelblit has found a middle path between Netanyahu critics and supporters.
Critics can no longer viably say he is in the Netanyahus’ pocket. He is indicting the prime minister’s wife, which means he will have banned himself from the family and any future job-help forever.
But Netanyahu supporters also had room to rejoice. The police had recommended indicting Netanyahu in at least four affairs and Mandelblit mostly rejected their recommendations.
Further, the Post
learned from sources close to the case that while there was unanimity within the prosecution to indict Netanyahu in the Prepared Food Affair, there was dissent against Mandelblit’s decision to let her off in the other affairs.
This comes to the last point about Mandelblit. Most of the debate until now about whether he was a Netanyahu sell-out or doing his work objectively completely misunderstood the real debate.
The real debate is actually quite similar to the disagreements within the prosecution under Mandelblit’s predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein, and it is cultural and philosophical.
Mandelblit and Weinstein both spent large portions of their careers in defense – Mandelblit as the chief IDF Public Defender and Weinstein in the private sector.
They are far more cautious and doubtful professionally about successfully proving intent in court using circumstantial evidence without air-tight human testimony like a state’s witness.
Other prosecutors, like former state attorney Moshe Lador, believe that public corruption is such a great scourge that if they have a chance of convincing a judge to convict top public officials, they should roll the dice and go for it, even if the case has some holes.
Lador and others like him would have indicted Netanyahu in several affairs, even the one’s where Naftali cannot help, saying that any person with common sense will see that Netanyahu must have known about illegal actions by everyone around her.
Mandelblit is skeptical about common sense arguments in court and worried that these proofs can be squashed by cleverly constructed alibis.
Chapter one of the Sara Netanyahu legal saga is over. It is now clear how serious chapter two is both for Netanyahu and her husband the prime minister.