Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu, in September 2013. Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post

A Guide for the Perplexed: The Many Affairs Involving Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu

Twenty years, 12 affairs, three attorney generals, two state comptrollers – and no indictments.



The Odelia Karmon affair (2016)

The suspicion: Ari Harow, who has served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff, headed the American Friends of Likud, a nonprofit that paid the salary of Odelia Karmon, who was employed by Netanyahu when he served as head of the opposition (2006-2009). Harow is suspected of breach of faith and fraud, after allegedly being involved in a fictitious $3-million sale of a consulting company that he owned.

Rami Zarnegar

Responses from the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Israel Police: Pressure to further investigate Netanyahu and Karmon, who claimed: “Bibi went into insane hysteria, suddenly ... and then he said to me: 'Odelia, give back the money.'”

Attorney general's response: Avichai Mendelblit decided to halt the investigation into the funds paid by the American Friends of Likud. He believed there was no chance that at the end of the probe evidence would emerge against Netanyahu of commission of a crime before the 10-year statute of limitations runs out.

Reaction to the accusations: “It’s all nonsense. Since Netanyahu’s victory in the last election, and even earlier, people hostile to the prime minister have been making tremendous efforts to bring about the his downfall by leveling false accusations against him and his family. These people in the media, and their agents, are applying constant pressure on the police, the state prosecutor and the attorney general to open a criminal investigation against the prime minister. Their unfounded claims are a total lie and they are turning out to be baseless. We repeat: There wasn’t anything, there won’t be anything – because there isn’t anything” (sent on behalf of the prime minister). Read full story

Baz Ratner, Reuters

The submarines affair (2016)

The suspicion: David Shimron, Netanyahu’s attorney and cousin, represented Michael Ganor, the representative of the German corporation ThyssenKrupp, which recently signed a deal to build three new submarines for the Israel Navy. Netanyahu initially said the submarines would be added to the existing fleet and would not replace old ones.

Attorney general's response: Mendelblit ordered a police investigation of the affair in light of “new information received from the police, as well as additional developments on the subject.” The investigation is expected to focus on a parallel transaction involving purchase of patrol vessels to protect Israel’s offshore natural gas platforms.

Reaction to the accusations: “The first time the prime minister learned of attorney Shimron’s involvement was when he was asked for his reaction about it. Attorney Shimron never spoke to the prime minister about the purchase of the submarines" (the Prime Minister’s Office). Read full story

Case 1000 (2016)

The suspicion: Wealthy businessmen, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, were asked to purchase luxury items such as cigars and alcoholic beverages for Netanyahu and his wife, for a sum totalling hundreds of thousands of shekels.

Attorney general's response: Mendelblit allowed the police to question Netanyahu on suspicion of a systematic receipt of gifts and favors from millionaires. “The claims that ultimately led to a decision to conduct an interrogation under caution [which could end in an indictment] arose in the context of the [informal] inquiry only about three months ago, as preliminary suspicions. Since then, concerted work has carried out by the Israel Police to ascertain their nature and to support them with evidence” (statement by the attorney general).

Reaction to the accusations: “We hear the festive atmosphere on television and in the opposition. I would like to say: Wait with the celebrations, don’t rush. There won’t be anything, you’ll continue to send up balloons full of hot air” (Netanyahu). Read full story

Case 2000 (2016)

The suspicion: Netanyahu tried to concoct a deal with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The deal was that Netanyahu would receive favorable coverage in the newspaper in exchange for cutting back on the extent of the commercial activity of the competing newspaper, the freebie daily Israel Hayom.

The Israel Police's response: The top brass believed the affair demanded a criminal investigation. Mozes was questioned and released under special conditions.

Attorney general's response: Mendelblit found out about the affair already in the spring of 2016, and only six months later approved the investigation of Netanyahu. According to the attorney general, the affair is serious from a public point of view, and borderline from a criminal point of view.

State prosecutor's response: Shai Nitzan believes that the findings of the investigation constitute an evidentiary basis that justifies questioning the prime minister under caution (meaning there is a possibility of an indictment).

Reaction to the accusations: “We hear the festive atmosphere on television and in the opposition. I would like to say: Wait with the celebrations, don’t rush. There won’t be anything, you’ll continue to send up balloons full of hot air” (Netanyahu). Read full story

The Arnaud Mimran affair (2016)

The suspicion: French millionaire Arnaud Mimran, who has been convicted of perpetrating the what has been called the "sting of the century," paid for vacations for Netanyahu and his family, and made an illegal donation to Netanyahu of 1.7 million euros.

Attorney general's response: Mendelblit has not yet decided whether to investigate the affair, as various political figures have urged.

Reaction to the accusations: Netanyahu says the money was received in 2001 when he was a private individual and was not used for political activity: “This is political persecution. I received the donation as a private person for hasbara [public diplomacy] campaigns for the benefit of the State of Israel.” Read full story

Migdalor Or Akiva

The electrician affair (2015)

The suspicion: Sara Netanyahu employed Avi Fahima, an electrician who is a close friend of the family, contrary to regulations and with exceptional employment conditions, at the expense of the government.

Israel Police's response: A recommendation to prosecute Sara Netanyahu on the charge of receiving something fraudulently. “The affair focused on a number of issues regarding which there is a suspicion of criminal offenses, among them a suspicion of receiving something fraudulently and of fraud and breach of trust, including the handling of mutual complaints.” (In an exceptional step, it was not noted whether the findings of the investigation confirmed the suspicion that crimes were committed; moreover, the names of those questioned were not mentioned.)

State comptroller's response: Joseph Shapira raised a suspicion of criminal behavior: According to his report, over a period of three months Sara Netanyahu hired Fahima to do electrical work in the Netanyahus' private residence in Caesarea, especially on weekends and even on Yom Kippur, when the rate is higher: “This was done while providing a misleading representation to the effect that the official contract was with a different contractor, but in effect electrician A. did the work on his behalf, as a subcontractor.”

The file was transferred to the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office in April 2016, and since then has been returned several times while the investigation is being completed, and is still in the hands of the National Fraud Unit.

Reaction to the accusations: “We say with complete confidence: These are petty matters, and in any case there can’t be anything, because there isn’t anything” (Netanyahu’s attorneys). Read full story

The meals affair (2015)

The suspicion: Sara Netanyahu ordered food and chefs to cater family and private events, at the expense of the Prime Minister’s Residence. Meni Naftali, former chief caretaker of the residence, filed a lawsuit in which he claimed that Sara Netanyahu had given an exaggerated number of guests, in order to be able to pay more per meal for fewer diners: “In that way, instead of reporting on four people who dined, she reported 10 or some other similar number, the budget for the meal was inflated and it was possible to pay the chef his salary.”

State comptroller's response: In his report, Shapira wrote: “During Netanyahu’s first years as prime minister, expenses for food and entertaining in the official resident on Balfour Street more than doubled, and included the costs of ready-made meals from restaurants or hotels, items from supermarkets, drinks and meals, and miscellaneous items.”

Israel Police's response: A recommendation to prosecute Sara Netanyahu on suspicion of receiving something fraudulently: “The affair focused on a number of issues regarding which there is a suspicion of criminal offenses, among them a suspicion of receiving something fraudulently and of fraud and breach of trust, including the handling of mutual complaints.” (In an exceptional step, it was not noted whether the findings of the investigation confirmed the suspicion of criminal; moreover, the names of those questioned were not mentioned.)

The file was transferred the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office in April 2016, and since then has been returned several times while the investigation is being completed, and is still in the hands of the National Fraud Unit.

Reaction to the accusations: “To our regret, the ongoing media campaign surrounding the state comptroller’s report is a clear attempt to bring down the prime minister and the Likud government through preoccupation with petty matters and a distraction from the really important issue: Who will defend the State of Israel from the tremendous security threats and the international pressure: Benjamin Netanyahu or [Zionist Union MKs] Tzipi [Livni] and 'Bougie' [Isaac Herzog]? Fact: In the matters that were examined by the comptroller, there is no suspicion of unethical behavior and certainly no suspicion of criminal behavior” (Likud).

The caregiver affair (2015)

The suspicion: Sara Netanyahu used the budget allocated to the Prime Minister’s Residence to cover the expenses of hiring a caregiver for her father.

Israel Police's response: A recommendation to prosecute Sara Netanyahu and Ezra Seidoff, a deputy director general of the Prime Minister's Office, on the charge of aggravated fraud: “The affair focused on a number of issues regarding which there is a suspicion of criminal offenses, among them a suspicion of receiving something fraudulently and of fraud and breach of trust, including the handling of mutual complaints.”

The file was transferred to the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office in April 2016, and since then has been returned several times while the investigation is being completed, and is still in the hands of the National Fraud Unit.

Reaction to the accusations: “We say with complete confidence that this is a petty matter and nothing can come of it because there is nothing here. Mrs. Netanyahu has not committed any crime. The various allegations that arise in the media will be proven baseless, just as all the allegations made against the Netanyahu family have throughout the years” (Netanyahu’s attorneys). Read full story

The garden furniture affair (2015)

The suspicion: Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu moved patio furniture from the yard of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to their private home in Caesarea.

Israel Police's response: A recommendation to prosecute Sara Netanyahu on the charge of fraud: “The affair focused on a number of issues regarding which there is a suspicion of criminal offenses, among them a suspicion of receiving something fraudulently and of fraud and breach of trust, including the handling of mutual complaints.” (In an exceptional step, it was not noted whether the findings of the investigation confirmed the suspicion that crimes were committed; moreover, the names of those questioned were not mentioned.)

The file was transferred to the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office in April 2016, and since then has been returned several times while the investigation is being completed, and is still in the hands of the National Fraud Unit.

Reaction to the accusations: “The allegation of irregularities is completely false. The prime minister conducts many work meetings on the patios in both Caesarea and Jerusalem. If new garden furniture had been purchased for the home in Caesarea for the period of his tenure as prime minister, this would have been in accordance with the procedure as approved by the Justice Ministry” (the Prime Minister’s Office). Read full story

Amos BenGershom / Government Press Office

The Bibi-Tours affair (2011)

The suspicion: Duplicate payment by the state and other entities of travel expenses incurred by then-Finance Minister Netanyahu and by his wife and sons.

State comptroller's response: Shapira decided there was indeed a suspicion of criminal wrongdoing: “It is improper that, when a minister travels abroad as part of his job, during which the government pays for the flight, an external contributor should finance the minister’s stay abroad. The payment deviated from the rules.”

Responses of the attorneys general: Yehuda Weinstein determined there was no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing: “There is no concrete chance that continuing the examination or even undertaking a criminal investigation would lead to the point where it would be necessary to press charges. This is due, among other reasons, to the great amount of time that has passed since these events occurred.” Avichai Mendelblit strongly rejected allegations that there had been whitewashing here on the part of his predecessor, said he would check into the affair, and finally stated in January 2017 that he had found no reason to continue the examination.

Reaction to the accusations: “The prime minister utterly rejects the allegations. It again turns out there is no limit to the attempts made to topple Likud under Netanyahu’s leadership from power, including by using criminal methods. [Channel 10 investigative reporter] Raviv Drucker, and whoever publishes and quotes his comments, is a party to a crime that bears a penalty of incarceration” (Likud's response to a Channel 10 investigative report). Read full story

The Amedi affair (1999)

The suspicion: Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu charged the government for work done at their private residence by contractor Avner Amedi and other service providers, before and during the time Netanyahu served as prime minister. The suspicions included giving and accepting bribes, fraud and obstructing an investigation.

State Prosecutor’s Office's response: A recommendation to charge Sara Netanyahu for fraud and to charge Benjamin Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust. “There is apparently evidence against those involved: regarding Mr. Netanyahu – with respect to the 'give and take' system used with Mr. Amedi, including giving and accepting bribes; Mr. Netanyahu, Mrs. Netanyahu, Mr. Leon, Mr. Seidoff and Mr. Amedi – attempted fraud by means of billing; Mr. Netanyahu – obstructing the investigation by asking Amedi during the press investigation to tell the newspaper they had no personal connection and that his connection was only with the Prime Minister’s Office; and Mrs. Netanyahu – theft.”

Attorney general's response: Elyakim Rubinstein ordered the case closed for lack of evidence: “It is difficult to accept the fact that one who provided services to the Netanyahu family for years continues to provide services after Mr. Netanyahu is elected as prime minister. One of the main goals of having rules and regulations in government offices is to maintain proper procedures and norms regarding the use of public funds, and to avoid manipulation and the nontransparent transfer of money. [But] such failures and flaws still do not amount to a crime.”

Reaction to the accusations: “Netanyahu rejects any intimation of improper conduct with regard to the operation of the Prime Minister’s Residence. Netanyahu objected to the Prime Minister’s Office paying the moving bill and said the price looked unreasonable” (Netanyahu’s office).

The Bar-On Hebron Affair (1997)

The suspicion: During his first term as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu sought to have attorney Roni Bar-On appointed attorney general, as part of an effort to reach a plea bargain in the case of Arye Dery, then on trial for bribery. It was thought that Bar-On’s appointment might be a political "gift" to Dery’s party, Shas, which in return would support Netanyahu’s plan for redeployment in Hebron.

Israel Police's response: A recommendation to prosecute Netanyahu on charges of fraud and breach of trust. “The affair borders on a combination of legitimate political measures and actions bordering on the criminal. Distinguishing between these realms is not simple.”

Attorney general's response: Rubinstein decided not to press charges, for lack of evidence. “It is possible to say that the prime minister, as is natural with any prime minister, was very busy with matters of state and that not every detail was brought to his attention or noticed by him, and that perhaps owing to a certain degree of lack of experience, at the outset of his term, (this) was his undoing. But the die was cast by lawmaker Arye Dery, who pressed for attorney Bar-On’s appointment.”

Reaction to the accusations: “There is no doubt as to the prime minister’s innocence. He is totally in the clear and his actions in this affair were proper” (Shai Bazak, Netanyahu’s media adviser).

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