JERUSALEM—Israeli Prime Minister
wife was charged with fraud for allegedly spending tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on meals from expensive restaurants.
Thursday’s indictment against Sara Netanyahu comes as the prime minister faces multiple investigations, including two in which police have recommended charges, that have posed a challenge to his leadership. Prosecutors haven’t filed charges against Mr. Netanyahu.
He has retained his standing among large swaths of the electorate and with his right-wing coalition. But the indictment presents Mr. Netanyahu with a serious domestic distraction as he tries to quell a protest movement in the Gaza Strip and assert Israel as a military force against Iran’s advances in Syria.
He also will need to maintain his political strength at home as he prepares for a Trump administration plan for peace with the Palestinians.
Ms. Netanyahu’s luxurious tastes have come under scrutiny in the Israeli press in recent years as former housekeepers have testified against her in a series of cases over the past decade.
According to Thursday’s charges, Ms. Netanyahu violated rules by allegedly expensing more than 350,000 shekels ($96,635) of catered meals to the family’s official residence between 2010 and 2013, despite the fact that they were already employing a private chef at government expense.
The meals, which were as costly as $7,000 each, included catering for parties from Jerusalem’s finest eateries, such as Little Italy and the Leonardo Hotel.
a former deputy director-general of the prime minister’s office, was also charged for fraud and breach of trust in the indictment.
The prime minister’s office declined to comment, but Ms. Netanyahu’s legal team harshly criticized the charges.
“The indictment is unfounded and delusional,” her lawyer said. “This is the first time in Israel and in the world that the wife of a leader is prosecuted over food.”
Experts and former officials said the charges could spell trouble for Ms. Netanyahu, but not necessarily for her husband.
“This is a case in which the attorney general and the state prosecutor think they can find her guilty beyond any reasonable doubt,” said
who until a few months ago was a senior manager in the Jerusalem District Court’s prosecution office.
Ms. Netanyahu’s trials come with some precedent. In 1977, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin resigned after his wife Leah appeared close to being indicted because she had an American bank account, which was then against the law for Israelis. This almost certainly won’t be the case for Mr. Netanyahu, who has vowed to stay in office.
The Netanyahus say the investigations are part of a campaign orchestrated by the media and police to force Mr. Netanyahu from power. He isn’t obligated to resign if he is indicted.
Israeli police have already recommended fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges against Mr. Netanyahu in cases related to taking gifts from billionaire benefactors, including cigars for himself and Champagne for his wife, and seeking favorable coverage in a Newspaper in return for limiting the influence of another.
The Netanyahus have also been questioned by police in connection with another case, in which he is suspected of promoting media regulations that benefited a news site’s owner in return for favorable news coverage. Though police haven’t recommended charges in that probe, experts and former aides see the investigation known as Case 4000 as the most serious legal threat to Mr. Netanyahu.
contributed to this article.
Write to Felicia Schwartz at [email protected]
Corrections & Amplifications
Sara Netanyahu is the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated her first name as Sarah. (6/21/18)
Source : WSJ