Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife takes plea deal admitting to misuse of government funds

(FILE PHOTO by video screenshot)

On Sunday the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reluctantly pleaded guilty to allegations that she’d misused roughly $100,000 of government funds to procure catering services.

The plea deal accepted by Sara Netanyahu subjected her to a less harmful charge of “intentionally exploiting another person’s error” versus a charge of fraud, according to The Jerusalem Post. This in turn means she must only pay NIS 55,000 [$15,275.15] in fines versus NIS 359,000 [$99,705.07].

Below is footage of the PM’s dour wife leaving the courtroom:

The plea was part of what’s been described as the “Prepared Food Affair” or scandal.

Last year Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit filed an indictment against Netanyahu and a co-conspirator alleging that, between September 2010 and March 2013, the two had spent spent roughly $100k on outside catering on the false basis that there were no cooks available at the House of the Prime Minister.

“According to the allegations, Netanyahu and [the co-conspirator] 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 Post notes.

The deal Sunday was accepted reluctantly, it would appear. The Post notes that during the hearing, Netanyahu’s lawyer Yossi Cohen suggested that the “Prepared Food Affair” was a scandal manufactured by her husband’s political enemies to hurt him, not her.

“This is one of the most severe and hurtful punishments that a person I know has received,” he reportedly said in court. “This is the result of four years of ugly, tendentious, libelous leaks that spilled my client’s blood. They forgot she is also a mother, a wife.”

“I stood here astonished at the lengths our society is willing to go to hurt a person,” he continued. “And of course nobody wanted to hurt Mrs. Netanyahu. The goal was to hurt her husband, topple the government.”

He also reportedly accused Israeli police officers of forcing witnesses to lie and alleged that he would have crushed the prosecution’s case had Netanyahu taken it to trial:

Netanyu seemed to share this belief.

“I have suffered enough,” she said after Judge Avital Chen read the verdict.

The judge was somewhat sympathetic to her. He reportedly took note of her lack of previous convictions and also praised for having “taken responsibility and saved a lot of precious judicial time.”

That being said, Netanyahu will now forever have a criminal record, albeit a small one. This isn’t the first instance of her facing court troubles, though it is the first of her facing criminal charges.

Three years ago a court reportedly awarded nearly $50,000 in damages to a former housekeeper who’d accused her of insulting and verbally abusing him.

HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING …

The following year another former housekeeper, Shira Raban, filed her own suit alleging abuse. As of June, that case remained open. In fact, Raban just testified only about a week ago.

“A woman suing the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, for alleged abuse in the workplace when she was employed as a cleaner at the Prime Minister’s Residence took the stand in court for the first time Tuesday,” The Times of Israel reported last week.

“Netanyahu allegedly forbade the former staffer to eat, drink, or rest, and she was required to change her clothes dozens of times a day. She was also required to wash her hands about 100 times a day with hot water, and was expected to wipe them with a towel, separate from the one used by the Netanyahu family.”

She also claimed that Netanyahu kept her constantly busy.

Cohen, who’s representing Netanyahu in this case as well, reportedly accused Raban of lying and asked how, if her allegations of being forced to work nonstop were true, she’d been able to make time to send “hundreds of text messages” to her sister during work hours.

Both Netanyahu and her husband have faced a near-endless barrage of allegations and accusations ever since her husband assumed the role of prime  minister in 2009.

The latest major attack occurred last year, when Israeli authorities began claiming that they had enough evidence to indict the PM and his wife on allegations of bribery and fraud.

“Authorities allege Netanyahu awarded regulatory favors to Israel’s leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel, in return for more positive coverage of him and his wife on a news website, Walla, owned by the company,” Reuters reported at the time.

As of mid-2019, the PM had not yet been indicted.

HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING …

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Vivek Saxena

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