Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a lot of problems. He has been accused of corruption, failed to assemble a coalition after winning a recent election and now must campaign in another race in September. To make matters worse, his wife is now officially a convicted criminal.
Sara Netanyahu was accused of aggravated fraud and breach of public trust last June. Netanyahu ordered gourmet takeout to the residence even though her government-funded kitchen had its own chef, flouting state rules and forcing the public pay for meals.
Prosecutors argued the prime minister and his wife were not entitled to the $96,000 in take-out ordered between 2010 and 2013, according to the indictment. Ultimately, she pled guilty to lesser charges and today (June 16) was sentenced.
The prime minister’s wife faced up to five years in prison on the initial charges against her. In a negotiated settlement, she agreed to plea to “intentionally exploiting the mistake of another” by misleading officials who authorized the expenses, unaware that she already benefited from chefs on the government payroll, AP reports. Her overspending charges were reduced to $50,000, and she has agreed to pay $2,800 in fines and return about $12,500 to the state.
Prosecutor Erez Padan said that the prosecution made “significant concessions” to resolve the case, explaining, ”Like in every plea deal, all sides make concessions, at times not easy ones. Netanyahu’s consent to be convicted shows she assumes responsibility.” He said the deal was struck because there were difficulties obtaining evidence in the matter, according to Haaretz.
“Sara Netanyahu is today paying a heavy and painful personal cost to put an end to this witch hunt, and I hope that indeed this is the end of the story,” Netanyahu’s attorney, Yossi Cohen, said after the sentencing hearing.
As unseemly as Sara’s food crime may appear, it’s small time compared to the accusations that her husband faces. Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of bribery and breach of public trust for allegedly accepting lavish gifts from rich friends and promoting desired legislation in exchange for favorable media coverage.
Netanyahu has repeatedly tried to push back a pre-indictment hearing, most recently claiming that upcoming elections in September make an October hearing impossible. But Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit refused further delays, and the hearing is expected on October 2.