The prosecution plans to submit an amended indictment against Sara Netanyahu on Wednesday, even though the plea bargain negotiated with her remains unsigned.
In a press statement on Tuesday, the Jerusalem district attorney’s office said the decision to submit the amended indictment only on Wednesday was made at the request of Netanyahu’s lawyer, with the consent of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
Netanyahu, who is married to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was originally charged with fraud, aggravated fraud and breach of trust for having catered meals brought into the prime minister’s residence, paid for with public funds, while concealing the fact that the residence employed a cook. But under the plea bargain reached through a mediation process, she will instead be convicted of the lesser offense of deliberately exploiting another’s mistake for her own financial benefit in a way that doesn’t constitute fraud – a fairly rare offense for which the maximum penalty is two years in prison.
However, the deal involves no jail time; it merely requires her to repay 45,000 shekels ($12,600) to the state plus a 10,000-shekel fine. That’s far less than the sum listed in the original indictment, which charged her with ordering some $100,000 worth of catered meals.
On Monday, the prosecution informed the High Court of Justice that the plea bargain had been agreed on but hadn’t yet been signed. It also said Netanyahu had requested that the submission of the plea bargain and the amended indictment be postponed by one day, because she needs another day “to clarify her position regarding the emerging plea bargain,” in the words of her lawyer, Yossi Cohen. The request for a postponement was submitted to the magistrate’s court with the prosecution’s consent.
The submission to the High Court was in response to a petition against the leniency of the plea bargain by Haaretz journalist Uri Misgav.
The plea bargain was reached following more than six months of negotiations, after Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Mordechay Caduri urged the parties to reach a settlement. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit also preferred not to bring the case to trial, and had proposed a plea bargain even before submitting the indictment. But Netanyahu rejected Mendelblit’s offer, under which she would have had to admit to the crime and repay some of the money.
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Another topic of dispute was how much Netanyahu would have to repay. Caduri made three proposals of his own, which Netanyahu rejected; the first would have required her to repay 500,000 shekels and the second 200,000. In the final stage of negotiations, the prosecution came down to 100,000 shekels while Netanyahu insisted on no more than 10,000. The final compromise was 45,000 shekels plus a 10,000-shekel fine.
Also on Tuesday, a former employee of the prime minister’s residence who is suing Sara Netanyahu for abusive treatment testified in the Jerusalem Labor Court. After Shira Raban gave her testimony, Netanyahu’s attorney Cohen cross-examined her.
When Cohen demanded to know why Raban never told her husband about the alleged abuse, she responded, “I was embarrassed to tell my husband what was happening to me there.” She also said she couldn’t afford to give up the job.
She gave a similar answer when asked why she never complained to the manpower agency. But her suit included text messages to her sister and a fellow employee in which she did complain about her working conditions.
Nevertheless, Raban admitted that one claim made in the suit was untrue – that she was only allowed to use an outdoor men’s bathroom.
Cohen also asked how her first day at work – “which lasted two hours” – could have been as difficult as she claimed. “It’s not correct to call it a day of work; it’s a day of abuse,” Raban retorted. “And abuse is something that harms your health from the first minute, from the first second.”