Israeli Attorney General Rules Sara Netanyahu Can Go to Guatemala as 'Private Citizen'

Avichai Mendelblit says PM's wife does not have any special legal status ■ Prime Minister’s Office: trip will funded in part by Guatemala and in part by Israel

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netnayahu with President of Guatemala Jimmy Morales and his wife Patricia Marroquin at the opening of the Embassy of Guatemala in Jerusalem, May 2018.
Marc Israel Sellem

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has stated that Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, does not have any special legal status and as such has approved her participation in a Foreign Ministry delegation to Guatemala as a private citizen.

Netanyahu left Sunday for a three-day trip as part of the delegation after she was invited to come by the wife of the Guatemalan president, Patricia Marroquin. It is the first time she has traveled as part of an official delegation without the prime minister.

Asked who was funding the visit, the Prime Minister’s Office said, “Funding for accommodations and transport in Guatemala is by the Guatemalan government. The Foreign Ministry and other government ministries annually fund flights by Israeli citizens, including artists, writers and sportsmen, to represent Israel. The budget will be in accordance with actual expenses and will be finalized at the end of the visit.”

Mendelblit, in a statement released by the Justice Ministry spokesman, said, “The attorney general stated that under current Israeli law, the wife of the prime minister is accorded no special legal status. As such, so long as the Foreign Ministry director general believes that there is justification for having the prime minister’s wife be part of the Foreign Ministry delegation to Guatemala, it should be arranged in accordance with the financial regulations that deal with foreign travel by those who aren’t state employees.”

Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem indeed approved Sara Netanyahu’s participation from a diplomatic perspective, though it should be noted that Sara’s husband is also foreign minister. The Foreign Ministry said, “Mrs. Netanyahu’s trip was approved legally, administratively and diplomatically by all the authorized officials.”

Netanyahu is set to participate in formal events surrounding issues of potable water and aid to victims of natural disasters. In June, Israel sent rescue forces to Guatemala after a volcano erupted 45 kilometers from the capital Guatemala City. According to the Foreign Ministry, the delegation will participate in a cornerstone ceremony for the rebuilding of a village destroyed in the eruption.

Guatemala was the second country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, after the United States.