Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit intends to indict Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for fraud involving goods worth NS 400,000 ($111,861).
The charges stem from accusations made by the former chief caretaker of the prime minister’s residence, Meni Naftali. Naftali has been leading demonstrations in recent weeks in front of Mandelblit’s home in Petach Tiqva concerning various scandals involving the prime minister and his inner circle. The fraud in this case involves Mrs. Netanyahu ordering private meals from the residence chef, against regulations, and attempting to conceal the orders within inflated official expenditures.
This is expected to be the first of several such actions in the coming months, as three other investigations are underway.
Case 1000: The prime minister and his family are suspected of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of expensive gifts, including cigars, fine wines and liqueurs, jewelry, and airline tickets and bookings at luxury hotels from wealthy foreign businessmen — some of whom have had business before the state. The recent agreement with Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, to turn state’s witness may change the nature of this investigation from fraud and breach of trust to out-and-out bribery.
Case 2000: Netanyahu was caught on tape attempting to conspire with Israeli newspaper magnate Amnon Mozes. Mozes is owner and publisher of the popular Israeli daily Yedi’oth Acharonoth, the most widely circulated Hebrew-language paper in the country, which has often been critical of the prime minister and his policies. Netanyahu is on tape offering to get a law passed that would have restricted circulation of Mozes’ chief competitor, Yisrael Hayom, owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, which is generally supportive of Netanyahu’s policies and is distributed free of charge.
An attempt was made to pass such a law in 2014, but failed when the coalition collapsed before the final reading. By the time the current coalition had been formed, the tape had surfaced with an Israeli television channel, and the attempt was abandoned. It is believed that Harow served as the go-between in arranging the meeting with Mozes and also with various politicians in connection with the ill-fated bill.
Case 3000: This is the most complex of the affairs and is expected to draw out the longest. This involves potential graft in the procurement of submarines for the Israeli Navy from the German firm ThyssenKrupp. Though Netanyahu is not generally believed to be a direct suspect in this case, people in his inner circle — in particular David Shimron, a relative of Netanyahu’s and his personal attorney, who represented ThyssenKrupp and the middle man in the deal, Michael Ganor — are being investigated.
Ganor has also agreed to a plea bargain under which he will testify against those he claims were his accomplices in the deal. In July, Germany postponed signing a contract for an additional three submarines for the Navy pending the results of the corruption investigation. Most recently, former science minister Eliezer Sandberg and current energy minister Yuval Steinitz have been questioned in this matter, which is widening in scope, as Israel National News reports, as has been a third person identified only as a former member of the National Security Council. Several other people have also been detained on suspicion of bribery and money laundering in connection with the deal.
According to a senior law enforcement official quoted by Ha’aretz, the police are expected to submit their recommendation concerning Case 1000 sometime in December. However, the official also cautioned that the date of submission is somewhat fluid, especially now that Harow is cooperating with the authorities.
For his part, Netanyahu continues to dismiss the allegations publicly as much ado about nothing. At a rally of Likud supporters a month ago, the prime minister sarcastically described the allegations as being about “the most important things in the world: the procedure for replacing a light bulb, trays of food, the cup of tea which was served to [Sara’s] father, a righteous man on his deathbed.”
Even at Israeli prices, NS 400,000 covers a lot of tea, snacks, and lightbulbs. Netanyahu is reportedly beefing up his legal representation in preparation for what is to come.