Analysis

With Sara Netanyahu's Indictment, Attorney General Played Dumb and Left the Job Half-done

The attorney general cleared Netanyahu of stealing from public coffers, taking 'special circumstances' into consideration; it looks like someone upstairs doesn't want her convicted

Sara Netanyahu, who received personal and compassionate attention from the attorney general himself
Moti Milrod

Ada Mendelblit, the attorney general's mother, recently moved into an assisted-living community in Tel Aviv. Avichai, her devoted son, visits her. It wouldn't occur to him to impose the expenses of taking care of her on the state, even for a few days. Any Israeli citizen who dared to contemplate such an act and who was caught wouldn't be at the receiving end of the judicial system's mercy.

But when he considers the police's recommendation to indict Sara Netanyahu on various charges, Mendelblit plays dumb and clears her. "The full range of circumstances in the matter are special"; "the cleaning workers took care of her father for a few days each, at a time when he needed nursing care in the final months before his death"; "at a distressing time"; "relatively low amounts" – so, if these conditions are met, can anyone steal from the state? Is this a general permit for Israeli citizens, or is it for privileged persons only? Is the attorney general authorized, morally, to whitewash wrongdoing in exchange for the belated regret of someone caught in the act?

And where are the other expenses of the state in this case? Drivers from the Prime Minister's Office – witnesses gave the police their names – traveled to the Tel Aviv area from Jerusalem and back to transport the caregivers in government vehicles and at the expense of their working days and overtime at night rates. Did Mendelblit not know, or did he know and fudge it? Only a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding the discovery of the truth or the investigation's completion can extract the facts.

By issuing a draft of a minor indictment, much less severe than would be justified by the evidence, the attorney general did half the job – and that's not even his job. An investigation of suspicions that involve the prime minister's residences but don't implicate the prime minister don’t require the attorney general's approval. The officials who are supposed to supervise the police in such a case should be two ranks beneath the attorney general, at the level of the district attorney's office. It's understandable why the state prosecutor dealt with Ezra Saidoff, the deputy director general of the Prime Minister's Office who is also being indicted in the case. But there is no convincing reason that explains why the prime minister's wife received personal and compassionate attention from the attorney general himself.

There is allegedly precedent for this: former Attorney General Aharon Barak's dealt with Yitzhak Rabin's wife, Leah – but that case was the other way around. Barak insisted on personally overseeing it to ensure that no deal letting Rabin pay off the state was struck between those subordinate to him (the state prosecutor and the Ministry of Finance's legal adviser) and the lawyer representing a prime minister's wife suspected of illegally holding a foreign currency account.

Mendelblit, unlike Barak, apparently sees such a deal as an appropriate solution to this offense. If she admits wrongdoing and pays the state back, she'll be forgiven. Pocketed bottle deposits (again with the help of state-paid drivers)? Pay 4,000 shekels ($1,100), and we'll close the matter between Yehuda Weinstein and David Shimron. The garden furniture was taken? The main thing is that it was returned "in the end." This is why Mendelblit should be supervised, so that at the end of the hearing, he doesn't settle for the return of hundreds of thousands of shekels for falsified transactions.

There's an alarming sign here: The lack of sufficient evidence against Sara, in contrast to the abundance of evidence against Saidoff.  This means that the state prosecutor's office didn't try to persuade Saidoff to turn state's evidence against Sara. And if that's the case, the reason is that somebody upstairs doesn't want her convicted.

Suspension from the psychological service

The law now requires Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to suspend Sara Netanyahu from her work with the city's education service. This move may take its toll on the psychological state of the children of the city, and perhaps also on Barkat's political situation. But the law is law, and if Barkat doesn't act of his own accord, as he has refrained from doing so far, with the police's recommendation, somebody will petition the High Court to encourage him.

Hysteria has spread in the Netanyahu camp. The walls around them are beginning collapse. The counter arguments, framing Naftali for Sara Netanyahu's guilt, are ridiculous. The forgeries began before Naftali began working there and continued after his resignation. If this is the defense's line, Netanyahu's lawyers would be better off not exposing it at a hearing and going to trial – unless they're being hinted at that they'll get a nice deal after the hearing.

Even now, before the hearing and the indictment, Sara Netanyahu has a criminal record attached to the closing of a case in the absence of evidence. One might wonder how someone as known for his integrity as Benjamin Netanyahu found himself married to someone accused of aggravated fraud, but maybe the picture will balance out when the investigators, the prosecutors and the attorney general finish dealing with his cases.

This isn't a tragedy; it's a farce. And to encourage those exposed to corruption who aren't deterred from dealing with the person in the most powerful position in Israel, in honor of Naftali and the head of the investigations and intelligence branch of the Israel Police, Maj. Gen. Meni Itzhaki, we should create the Meni Prize.