State prosecutors reduced charges against the prime minister’s wife to avoid an expensive, drawn-out trial.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife has reportedly come to an agreement with the state prosecutors that will enable her to avoid a trial on corruption charges.
Originally charged with the serious offenses of fraud and breach of trust in what was known as the “Prepared Foods Affair,” Sara Netanyahu will now admit to the much lesser crime of “deliberately exploiting the error of another person.”
The “other person” is Ezra Saidoff, who was the deputy director general of the prime minister’s office during the period under scrutiny, 2010-2013. The prosecution had alleged that the two knew that home meals could not be ordered from outside catering services when a chef is employed at the expense of the state, and conspired to hide the fact that there was indeed a cook on staff.
The prosecutors had also originally demanded that Netanyahu repay the cost of all the catered food she had allegedly improperly ordered, which came out to a whopping NIS 359,000. The deal stated, however, that she would reimburse the state only NIS 45,000 and pay a NIS 10,000 fine. No explanation was given for why the fine was slashed by such a large amount.
Saidoff was also to go to trial in the affair, but he has taken a deal as well. He will pay a similar NIS 10,000 fine, and perform community service.
The trial, which had formally begun last October, was postponed when Jerusalem Magistrates Court President Avital Chen appointed an arbitrator with the express desire that an out-of-court settlement be reached. There were several suggested compromises that either one side or the other rejected, dragging the proceedings on for months. The April elections caused another delay.
The court still has to approve of the deal, but it is not expected to stand in the way.
Netanyahu opponents were quick to criticize the deal.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak called it a “disgrace” and a “whitewash” on the part of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. “NIS 350,000 disappeared and equality before the law was buried,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Labor MK Sheli Yachimovich wrote that the prime minister should have been the target all along.
“The indictment should have been filed against Netanyahu and not against his wife. He is the elected public official, and the assumption that what happens in the home is the responsibility of the woman – chauvinistic and outrageous.”