Sara Netanyahu arbitration close to plea deal

The trial about events dating back to the 2010-2013 was slated to begin last July but has been continually postponed by health issues, the elections and ongoing negotiations.

By
May 22, 2019 22:27
3 minute read.
Sara, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives at a court hearing in fraud trial

Sara, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives at a court hearing in the fraud trial against her. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Negotiations to resolve the trial of the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, in the “Prepared Food Affair” may finally come to a plea deal in the coming weeks following another round of mediation on Wednesday.

The next round of mediation is set for Monday, but the sides appear to have agreed on Netanyahu accepting criminal responsibility for a significantly reduced charge, while there are still gaps regarding the amount she will be fined.

The trial about events dating back to the 2010-2013 was slated to begin last July but has been continually postponed by health issues, the elections and ongoing negotiations which have come close to a deal, but never sealed it.

For a long time, Mrs. Netanyahu was trying to avoid any criminal record. A first breakthrough appears to have been her willingness to accept a criminal charge as long as it is heavily reduced from fraud to something along the lines of accidental fraud or failure to prevent a fraud.

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court president Avital Chen appointed an arbitrator in October and urged the sides to reach a compromise.

In June 2018, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit filed an indictment against the prime minister’s wife for fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust in an explosive development which shook the country.
The attorney-general has alleged that from September 2010 until March 2013, Sara Netanyahu acted in coordination with then-Prime Minister’s Office deputy director-general Ezra Seidoff to falsely misrepresent that the Prime Minister’s Residence did not employ a chef.

According to the allegations, Mrs. Netanyahu and Seidoff made misrepresentations to circumvent and exploit regulations that stated: “In a case where a cook is not employed in the [prime minister’s] official residence, it is permitted to order prepared food as needed.” The two hoped to obtain state funding both for the chef at the residence and for prepared food orders. In this way, the two allegedly fraudulently obtained from the state NIS 359,000 for hundreds of prepared food orders.

However, Mrs. Netanyahu’s lawyers have established that a substantial amount of the NIS 359,000 could be contested.
Furthermore, in 15 instances, invoices to chefs who were brought in from outside were falsified in order to circumvent limits on how much could be paid toward outside chefs. Seidoff directed the chefs, the house managers and Mrs. Netanyahu’s secretaries to falsify the invoices in these instances.

Charges against Mrs. Netanyahu for these 15 instances were previously closed by Mandelblit as there was insufficient evidence to prove that she knew about the actions of Seidoff and the others.

When the trial opened in October, prosecution lawyers Erez Padan and Jenny Avni pressed for a three-judge panel, saying that the fate of the prime minister’s wife and issues of misuse of public funds have serious significance for the broader public.
They said that the court has wide discretion to add judges to a case, and asked rhetorically: “If not in this case, then when?”
Mrs. Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yossi Cohen, slammed the prosecution’s position saying: “This case over food never should have been filed, and now they are trying to over-complicate it.”

Cohen said that one judge was more than enough, just as it had been enough for the Holyland trial of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

The prosecution retorted that there were three magistrate’s court judges in the trial of Avigdor Liberman, which was for a similar level of severity in terms of the alleged crimes.

Chen put off the issue sending the case to arbitration.

Surprisingly, Mrs. Netanyahu’s public trial appears to have done little to no damage to the prime minister politically in an atmosphere in which even the attorney-general’s February 28 announcement of an intent to indict him as well did not hinder his resounding reelection on April 9.

The Sara Netanyahu cases jumped into the headlines in February 2015 as part of a State Comptroller report, resulting in “Bottlegate” and other now-closed cases becoming household names. It became a full criminal investigation starting in July 2015.


Related Content

Palestinian and Israeli youth play soccer together
August 19, 2019
Palestinian, Jewish teens join together for soccer practice

By ZACHARY KEYSER

Cookie Settings