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Sara Netanyahu with her husband in the background.
Reuters/Amir Cohen
Did Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, misuse government funds to fuel her hunger?
THE HUNGER GAMES

Israel’s first lady was just indicted for spending public funds on gourmet takeout

By Ephrat Livni

Too many cooks in the kitchen is criminal. That is, if you happen to be living in the Israeli prime minister’s residence, you’ve already got a chef on staff, and the government is footing the food bills.

Israel’s first lady, Sara Netanyahu, was hit with a criminal indictment on June 20, according to the Jerusalem Post. She is charged with aggravated fraud and breach of public trust for allegedly misusing government funds to hire outside chefs and order food from gourmet restaurants to the prime minister’s residence, although there was already a cook in her employ. This apparently violates regulations that permit such expenses only if there is no in-house chef.

According to the allegations, from September 2010 until March 2013, Netanyahu falsely claimed that the prime minister’s residence had no regular cook and ordered $96,000 worth of gourmet takeout meals. Prosecutors say they will show that she knew this violated rules on use of public funds and that she acted to conceal the fact that there was a chef in her employ, instructing others to keep quiet about it. The indictment alleges that Netanyahu instructed staff to classify the cook as a maintenance worker “so that this won’t be found out by the treasury and the office manager,” Haaretz reports.

The prime minister’s wife is accused of acting in cahoots with Ezra Seidoff, who was at the time deputy director general of the prime minister’s office and was also charged. The scandalous matter has been dubbed the “Prepared Food Affair” by Israeli press. Efforts to reach a plea agreement fell through after Netanyahu refused to pay for the meals and reimburse the public funds.

This isn’t the first time Israel’s first lady has been accused of abusing her power. In 2016, a court awarded a former employee $42,000 in damages based on accusations she mistreated him. Other employees have also alleged mistreatment but Netanyahu denies wrongdoing.

The maximum sentence, if Netanyahu is convicted of fraud, is five years in prison. A trial date has yet to be set, however, and her office has not commented on the indictment.

Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t expected to resign over the prepared food affair. But the Jerusalem Post reports that more indictments may be on the way, targeting the prime minister for bribery and breach of public trust. If that does indeed  happen, he may be forced to quit his office or be pushed out by the High Court of Justice.

For now, what’s apparent is that Sara Netanyahu was hungry. She wanted to have her cook and eat out too, and that’s against the rules.