The prosecution is leaning toward indicting Sara Netanyahu, Channel 10 reported and The Jerusalem Post confirmed late Thursday night.The report was very short on specifics about what the charge would be or the timing, and the Post learned that State Attorney Shai Nitzan has not received a final recommendation from his staff. In May 2016, following a bizarre and amorphous public statement, it was confirmed that the police had recommended to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit that he indict Sara Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Residence Affair.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case (though he is being probed for other cases) and he has denied wrongdoing by his wife. In May 2016, in vague off-record conversations with police, it was confirmed that the police recommended indicting Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust charges related to using public funds for purchasing food, paying special chefs and related costs for hosting private events.Up to a certain point, the state does carry a wide array of any prime minister’s expenses since hosting ambassadors, ministers and foreign heads of state is part of the job.Criminal law expert and author of an extensive work on corruption cases against public officials Shmuel Saadia said that a key issue which would likely get her off the hook was that no one really knows where or how to draw the line between entirely private hosting and hosting for the job. The same police official in May 2016 also confirmed recommending indicting Netanyahu for using state funds to pay for a caretaker for her ill father.Each of these instances are less famous than “Bottlegate,” “Furniture Gate,” “Bedgate” and other scandals which had gotten more coverage in the press previously, but appear to be off the radar screen at this point.One other scandal which Netanyahu seems to have avoided being swept up into, but seems to have netted others is “Electrician Gate.”The police official in May 2016 confirmed a recommendation to indict Ezra Seidoff, a top deputy in the Prime Minister’s office, and the family’s electrician Avi Fahima in that scandal.Fahima was prohibited from performing work for the Netanyahus due to a conflict of interest, but allegedly did so anyway using a straw company as cover so that the conflict would not be flagged.Part of that scandal was also that Fahima was called to work frequently on weekends and even Yom Kippur despite rules against such invasive impositions.In an unusual and perhaps even unprecedented move which drew heavy criticism, the initial and official police statement in May 2016 about the end of the investigation made no mention of whether or not police found evidence to support the allegations against Sara Netanyahu.The statement was met by fierce criticism in the Whatsapp group run by the national police spokesperson’s office to communicate with dozens of crime reporters from across the country. Some of the allegations stem from a February 2015 state comptroller report on a range of issues with the prime minister’s residence which hit weeks before the last national election and was viewed at the time by the prime minister as a major threat.Other allegations came as a spin-off from a civil labor court trial by former Netanyahu house manager Meni Naftali who has won a NIS 170,000 civil judgment against the first family for poor treatment and failure to pay overtime.Ben Hartman contributed to this story.
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu arrive at court to testify in libel case on March 14, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)