Sara, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives at a court hearing in the fraud trial against her.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sara Netanyahu’s trial in the “Prepared Food Affair” is no longer about her, but her husband, the prime minister.
Inexplicably, the prosecution and her defense lawyers once again not only failed to reach a deal in arbitration negotiations, but also failed to decide to continue with a trial originally meant to start in the summer of 2018.
Even the summer of 2018 trial date was a late one after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had announced an intent to indict Sara in September 2017.
These delays with no resolution are inexplicable unless the outcome of Sara’s trial has become subsumed by the much bigger issue of the public corruption probes against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
If the attorney-general was not about to announce an intent to indict the prime minister within approximately two weeks, the trial of his wife would be huge news.
But with the main event shifted to the prime minister, Sara’s trial has probably become another bargaining chip in a broader legal conflagration.
In June, Mandelblit filed an indictment against the prime minister’s wife for fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust. Back then, it was an explosive development which shook the country.
In the Prepared Food Affair, the attorney-general has alleged that from September 2010 until March 2013, Sara acted in coordination with then-Prime Minister’s Office deputy director-general Ezra Seidoff to present the false misrepresentation that the Prime Minister’s Residence did not employ a chef, even though there was one on staff during that time.
The game for resolving Sara’s case with a deal has always been relatively simple.
She accepts some reduced amount of criminal responsibility and pays a reduced fine and the prosecution avoids a messy unpleasant trial.
But in over a year of on-again off-again negotiations, Sara has not budged from a refusal to be nailed with any criminal record, and the prosecution has not budged from demanding some minimal acceptance of criminal responsibility.
There are not really any new formulas to try out and the reported “new” formulas are really just restatements of prior offers with a new spin.
So why have the sides not plowed forward with the trial? The case is not terribly complex and could potentially be finished by now.
Unless one or both sides have realized that how this case is resolved is now ultimately tied up in the greater game involving the prime minister.
This case may very well still go to trial a year or more before a final indictment decision in the prime minister’s case. But if that happens, it will likely only be after the current storm has died down and if it is clear that a bigger deal is not in reach.