According to Sara Netanyahu’s legal strategy, revealed in detail to The Jerusalem Post, even if she is indicted and convicted, there is a good chance she will not be sentenced to prison.
This is a counterintuitive conclusion.
At first, it would seem that her two broad outcomes are avoiding indictment-conviction in the “Prepared Food Affair,” or being convicted and going to jail.
In the Prepared Food Affair, she and others are accused of ordering prepared food with state funds even when she had a state paid for cook making meals for her and her guests.
The reason it would seem she would either get off or go to jail is that the total sum she is accused of committing fraud with, at NIS 359,000, is not small.
But her attorney Yossi Cohen revealed to the Post
late Wednesday that rather than going for an all or nothing strategy, their strategy will be to mitigate the amount of fraud being alleged down to as low as NIS 30,000.
How do they propose doing this? First, they will try to get the NIS 359,000 reduced to around NIS 134,000. To do this, they will attack former Prime Minister’s Residence house manager Meni Naftali and bring a variety of evidence to show he was ordering the prepared food for himself and colleagues.
Naftali has already admitted to criminal wrongdoing in this area, so it is just a question whether the court buys his story or Mrs. Netanyahu’s about her also being or not being involved. The 2011-2012 period in which he was house manager accounts for around NIS 225,000 of the charges.
If Netanyahu succeeds on this point, her legal team will then try to get the around NIS 134,000 from 2010 and 2013 reduced to around NIS 30,000.
To do this, they will point out that she can only have broken the law by ordering prepared food at times when the cook was actually working, and that many times the cook got sick, took vacation or was off weekly on Shabbat.
At the NIS 30,000 amount, they can try to alternately claim that either Netanyahu just got mixed up about when the cook was on or off, or that for such a small amount, it is against the public interest to bring a criminal case.
This is not the same as claiming complete and uncompromising innocence, but it takes advantage of an opening that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit left them in his September announcement. In that announcement he said he would likely indict Netanyahu in the Prepared Food Affair, but close six other probes against her.
The key probe here that he closed was the “Father’s Homecare Affair.”
Mandelblit said he closed the case for a variety of reasons, but one was the small amount of money involved and the difficult emotional circumstances.
In the affair, Netanyahu employed “S.” and “G.” for six days and five days, respectively, to care for her sick and now deceased father. While normally, her father had a different homecare arrangement, during those days that he was staying at the Prime Minister’s Residence, his regular arrangement was unavailable.
Netanyahu paid S. for taking care of her father. However, in addition, S. was paid by the state for providing cleaning services. G. functioned as a substitute for S. when S. was unavailable. G. was paid by the state for cleaning services.
Mandelblit said that since Netanyahu had paid S., was unaware of extra payments to S., and that since all of the state payments to S. and G. were small, he would not indict her.
The bottom line is that Mandelblit believed that Netanyahu was guilty, but let her off because the amount of money involved was small.
Netanyahu’s lawyers will simply be asking the attorney-general to make the same call in the Prepared Food Affair, and they can even argue that in both affairs she simply got confused sometimes about when the cook or caregiver was on duty – something she could not claim if she were still charged with NIS 359,000 in fraud.
This strategy could run into problems.
Former Prime Minister’s Office deputy director-general Ezra Seidoff could turn state’s witness and sink her defense that she was not in league with Naftali.
Also, Mandelblit’s notice that he was closing the Father’s Homecare Affair said he would still use evidence of her conduct in that affair to prove a pattern in the case in which he intended to indict her.
But the bottom line again is, even if Netanyahu’s lawyers lose that argument to avoid indictment and conviction, it will almost certainly get her out of jail time.
Using this strategy, Netanyahu’s legal team has left her partially exposed, but this middle-of-the-road strategy may save her from prison in the end.