Sara Netanyahu at the Jerusalem Labor Court, May 10, 2015.
(photo credit: AVIRAM ZINO)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has made a push for the police to make a recommendation to him in the coming weeks regarding the fate of Sara Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Residence Affair, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Ideally, Weinstein would like a decision some days before January 31, his last day on the job, so that he can make a final decision about whether the prime minister’s wife will face indictment or whether to close the case against her.
At the same time, Weinstein did not insist that the police make a recommendation in the coming weeks if that would compromise the professionalism of the investigation.
His request did raise eyebrows as he has developed a reputation for taking a long time to decide on cases of public figures, from Avigdor Liberman to Binyamin Ben- Eliezer.
But Weinstein has explained that he would like to leave his successor, Avichai Mandelblit, with a desk clean of major hot potato cases as he enters office.
On January 4, police questioned Netanyahu for the second time in five days in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation into the Prime Minister’s Residence Affair.
The questioning is focusing on Furniture Gate, Electrician Gate and medical care for Sara Netanyahu’s father – all under the heading of allegations of misuse of state funds in the management of the residence, for the personal gain of the Netanyahu family.
A separate affair known as Bottlegate appears to have dropped off the radar screen.
The investigation had focused so far on Ezra Seidoff, one of the top deputies in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. The prime minister himself has been cleared of suspicion in the case.
Furniture Gate refers to accusations of purchasing furniture with state funds for the prime minister’s private residence in Caesarea. According to the allegations, the furniture was nominally purchased for the official public residence, but then Sara moved the new furniture to the couple’s private Caesarea residence, while replacing it at the public residence with older furniture.
Electrician Gate refers to the prime minister’s residence using an outside contractor for electrical problems in order to get around budget limits on the state budget covering his residence’s electricity costs.
A February State Comptroller Report goes so far as to say that hiring the private contractor, Avi Fahima, involved “misleading representations.”
Fahima had been disqualified from working on the Netanyahus’ electrical systems on the state’s dime because of his prior relationship with them, yet he ended up performing the work under the guise of working for a different contractor.
Reports about Sara’s alleged use of state funds for her father’s medical care have only recently been raised, so less is known about those allegations.
Sara is expected to claim that she used private funds for any issue where use of public funds would be controversial and that while she was involved in managing Fahima prior to her husband’s reelection as prime minister, that she was not involved in managing him post-reelection.
One challenge Sara may have is explaining away Seidoff’s statements that he coordinated all of his decisions with her regarding the residence.
In the February State Comptroller Report, Joseph Shapira said electricity use was so high at the prime minister’s residence, that over a certain three-month period, it cost 70 percent of the electricity budget for the year.
Next, the report said the outside electrician was called for service nearly every weekend over a multi-month period, including on Yom Kippur.
Shapira said that since Sara Netanyahu or her staff had ordered the electrician to come directly, there was less paperwork on which to determine if the issues could have waited until the work week for regular staff to fix them, saving state funds.
The investigation is a spin-off of a civil lawsuit by former house manager of the Prime Minister’s Residence Meni Naftali and started to move forward following the special and dramatic State Comptroller Report in February, shortly before March 17 elections.