The prosecution and defense lawyers for the prime minister's wife, Sara Netanyahu, agreed in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Thursday to have the criminal fraud case against her referred to mediation in an effort to resolve the case. The case involves meals ordered at government expense at the prime minister's residence.
According to the indictment, the prime minister's wife instructed staff at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem to order meals worth a total of 360,000 shekels ($100,000) from gourmet restaurants between 2010 and 2013. She thus allegedly violated rules barring the residence from ordering meals from outside while there was a cook on its staff.
She was charged along with Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general of the prime minister's office. The two were charged with aggravated fraudulent receiving of an item or items, fraud and breach of trust. Saidoff was also charged with falsification by a public servant. Saidoff also agreed to mediation of the case, which had been proposed by Magistrate's Court President Avital Chen. Deputy Court President Mordechai Kaduri has been appointed mediator. Mediation has become more common in criminal cases in addition to its use in efforts to settle civil lawsuits.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has had protracted negotiations with Sara Netanyahu's lawyers since the charges were filed in June, hoping to reach an agreement on the disposition of the case. He proposed that the charges against her be dropped if she reimbursed the state for the allegedly improper spending at the prime minister's residence, but he conditioned the agreement on the prime minister's wife's admission to the allegations against her.
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So far, she has refused to make such an admission, and both sides have expressed doubts about the prospects of mediation, which is held behind closed doors, and hence avoiding a trial.