Wife Of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Indicted, And He Could Be Next

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces what could be a scandal that will quickly push him out of office.

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been indicted on a number of charges arising on a number of charges relating to an investigation that could lead to the Prime Minister himself being indicted:

JERUSALEM — Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, was indicted on Thursday on charges that she defrauded the Israeli government of close to $100,000 in improper expenses, largely by hiring some of Jerusalem’s best-known chefs to cater hundreds of private meals while covering up the fact that the prime minister’s residence already employed a full-time cook.

Mr. Netanyahu himself was not named in the indictment, though he is currently the subject of a handful of separate corruption investigations.

The charges announced against Mrs. Netanyahu include breach of trust, though she does not hold a formal public position, and cover the years 2010 through 2013. Accusing her of “exploiting her status as the wife of the prime minister,” prosecutors said Mrs. Netanyahu and a top aide colluded in a “planned, ongoing and systematic” scheme both to break government rules and to prevent state accountants from learning of her trespasses.

The charges said:

… the accused acted jointly to fund at the cost of the public coffers ready meals from restaurants, and this while simultaneously receiving the services of a full-time cook in the residence, who was falsely presented to the office as a cleaning worker — all this contrary to the procedures and rules laid down in this matter and by receiving double funding at the state’s expense for the cost of meals in the residence in all those cases that will be detailed below with regard to this charge. The accused acted, as stated, to take advantage of her status as the wife of the prime minister …

Mrs. Netanyahu and the aide, Ezra Saidoff, a manager in the prime minister’s office, are accused of falsifying household financial records, misidentifying kitchen staff members as maintenance workers and inflating the hours worked by handpicked outside waiters to show a lower rate of pay that fell within state guidelines.

To keep the cost per person within the guidelines, the prosecutors say, Mr. Saidoff also padded the number of occasions and the number of people who attended.

… on the basis of the demands of the accused [Mrs. Netanyahu] to employ chefs in the residence for the purpose of cooking meals they hosted privately and in order to fund the high cost of the meals, the accused [Mr. Saidoff] acted in such a way that the overall cost of these meals was divided into a larger number of portions than the number of portions actually provided, and sometimes “spread them out” over a number of dates.

In a statement, lawyers for Mrs. Netanyahu called the indictment “absurd and delusional,” cast blame on a former household superintendent and said “the Netanyahu family did not consume most of the food,” which was eaten by other people, including guests and staff.

“But the biggest absurdity,” the statement asserts, is that the accounting procedure Mrs. Netanyahu is accused of violating was drafted especially for Mr. Netanyahu just days before he took office in 2009 “by three officials without authority.”

“An indictment based on an illegal procedure cannot hold water,” the statement says.

The attorney general of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit, filed Thursday’s indictment over the objections of Mrs. Netanyahu’s lawyers. One of them, Jacob Weinroth, gave an interview recently in which he said that the case could have been avoided had Mrs. Netanyahu made restitution, but that she had refused to do so.

These charges come four months after Israeli police charged with investigating corruption allegations that had been made against both the Prime Minister had his wife recommended that indictments be issued against both of them. In the interim, apparently, there have been behind the scenes negotiations going on between attorneys for the couple and prosecutors about possible deals that would forego the need for indictment, Today’s development seems to indicate that those negotiations have proven to be a failure. Whether or not that means we’re likely to see a future indictment of the Prime Minister is unclear, but as Ed Morrissey explains, the situation is nonetheless a politically difficult one for Netanyahu, especially given how similar events have been handled in the past in Israel. Some forty years ago, the wife of the then-serving Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was indicted, an event that led Rabin himself to step aside even though he was not directly involved in the scandal. Rabin, of course, was succeeded in office by Menachem Begin, who would go on to forge the historic Camp David Accords with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

In the case of Prime Minister Netanyahu, though, the threat to his future lies in more than just the political embarrassment of his wife having been indicted. In this case, Netanyahu himself is at risk of being indicted and it could be enough to force him out of power. Last week, The Jerusalem Post the Attorney General of Israel planned on indicting both Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahureported that . So far, they’ve gotten half of that prediction right and one suspects it may not be long before the other shoe drops for the Prime Minister. In that case, there would likely be a Constitutional crisis set off, especially if Netanyahu refuses to resign the in face of the charges. In that case, it would be up to either the members of the ruling coalition to force him from power or a no-confidence vote in the Knesset that would set in motion a new round of elections sometime this year. In any case, the leadership of Israel could be undergoing some profound changes in the near future.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    What are the odds Trump will try to pardon Bibi? 🙂

    18
  2. inhumans99 says:

    “In any case, the leadership of Israel could be undergoing some profound changes in the near future.”

    Good, Israel is overdue for some new blood at the top of the political food chain. In a perfect world Netanyahu and President Trump would resign and hang out on their own private island for the rest of their days, I hear Saint Helena island is a nice place to spend some time.

  3. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @inhumans99:

    Agreed. Likud is a stain on the face of humanity. The sooner everybody is rid of it, the better.

    What about these people though? Subtlety certainly isn’t in their bag of tricks 🙂

  4. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @inhumans99:

    Agreed. Likud is a stain on the face of humanity. The sooner everybody is rid of it, the better.

    What about these people though? Subtlety certainly isn’t in their bag of tricks 🙂

  5. @HarvardLaw92:

    Netanyahu’s coalition consists of more than just Likud. Indeed, he would not have been able to form a government with just the support of his own party. There are parties that are part of his coalition that are, if anything, more radical than Likud on settlement and other issues, especially the Orthodox parties.

  6. Pylon says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Sure, but without Likud, the more moderate and liberal coalitions would govern.

  7. Kathy says:

    @inhumans99:

    I hear Saint Helena island is a nice place to spend some time.

    Not remote enough. There’s now a direct flight from South Africa.

    Antarctica, now…

  8. @Pylon:

    Yes but that would probably require new elections. If Bibi is forced out, he’ll likely be replaced by another minister in the cabinet, most likely Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. A new coalition would require new elections, which (as I understand Israeli politics) can only happen if there’s a no-confidence vote in the Knesset.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    There’s now a direct flight from South Africa.

    Maybe Bibi would be happy there, after all, he does seem to have an affinity for Afrikaner policies…

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    What are the odds Trump will try to pardon Bibi?

    I hear Johnny Carson is always looking for new writers!

  11. al Ameda says:

    really … lock her up

  12. Kathy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Aren’t such policies like way in the minority now?

    He can pay homage to Napoleon, though, and Trump can learn who Napoleon was.

  13. teve tory says:

    @Kathy: “Not a lot of people know Napoleon was a general, okay? Napoleon is being recognized more and more.”

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @teve tory:

    “Not a lot of people know Napoleon was a general, okay? Napoleon is being recognized more and more.”

    You win the Internet today! Congratulations!

  15. Bill says:

    @Kathy:

    Not remote enough. There’s now a direct flight from South Africa.

    Harder to get to than Antarctica.

    Pitcairn Islands

  16. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    You win the Internet today! Congratulations!

    I concur.

  17. Kathy says:

    @Bill:

    But in favor of Antarctica, it’s cold year-round, dark for half the year, and inaccessible for a portion of the year as well.

  18. teve tory says:

    I’d like to think my writer, a big orange doofus clown from Queens. 😛

  19. An Interested Party says:

    Aren’t such policies like way in the minority now?

    In South Africa, yes, in Israel, not so much…

  20. Kylopod says:

    @Pylon:

    Sure, but without Likud, the more moderate and liberal coalitions would govern.

    Yup. It’s hard to make an exact comparison between the US’s system and Israel’s, where the balance of power is focused on party coalitions rather than individual parties. It’s sort of like if we had here a Republican Party, plus an Evangelical Party, a Catholic Party, a Mormon Party, a Tea Party, a Neocon Party, an Alt-Right Party, plus a smattering of smaller parties devoted to particular issues or representing particular groups, and they’d all share power under one umbrella. That’s actually not far from we’ve got in this country, it’s just that those are GOP factions instead of separate parties.

  21. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I think it’s more likely Netanyahu would be succeeded by someone even worse should he be forced from office, as there isn’t really anything like an effective opposition to the government’s continued slide into authoritarian rule.

  22. Scott says:

    I’ve said this before but I believe we need to break the myth (and reality) of the imperial presidency. We tend to think our President is so important that replacing him (or her) outside of the political cycle is cataclysmic and really unheard of. It goes, as well, with indictment and jail. We made the mistake with the Nixon pardon (which I concurred with at the time but now regret) and it prevents us from looking at contemporary figures with similar clear eyes. Other nations indict, try, and jail their leaders for illegal activities and misconduct and we shouldn’t preclude that avenue for us. Normalizing this would be good for the American political system.