Suspected of Misusing $100,000 of Public Funds, Sara Netanyahu Signs Plea Deal to Pay $15,000

The premier's wife was suspected of fraudulently receiving catered meals at at a cost of around $100,000; according to the deal, she will not admit to defrauding the state

Sara Netanyahu in Washington, D.C., Feb. 15, 2017.
Andrew Harnik,AP

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has signed a plea deal with the State Prosecutor's Office, requiring her to pay a fine nearly a year after she was indicted for allegedly misusing public funds.

According to the deal, Netanyahu will admit to and be convicted of a criminal offense defined as receiving an item by intentionally exploiting another individual’s mistake, but not through fraud, and will return 45,000 shekels ($12,445) the state, as well as pay a 10,000 shekel ($2,765) fine.

The crime she admitted to is infrequently cited in Israeli law, and carries a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment. Netanyahu will not admit that she defrauded the state, despite the original accusations that were made against her. The deal will be presented at the Hashalom Court in Jerusalem on June 6, with Netanyahu present. 

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The indictment against Netanyahu was filed in June 2018. It alleged that the prime minister's wife ordered catered meals to the prime minister's residence which cost around 360,000 shekels ($100,000), paid for with public funds, while concealing the fact that the residence also employed a cook.

The plea deal was struck in a mediation process that lasted over six months and was led by a Jerusalem District Court judge. It was sealed only after Judge Mordechai Uri repeatedly implored Netanyahu to reach a compromise in order to close the case.

In addition, a plea deal was reached with the former deputy chief of the prime minister's bureau, Ezra Saidoff, who will admit to the same crime. He will have to pay a fine of 10,000 shekels in addition to completing 120 hours of community service. 

The indictment against Saidoff struck from record his alleged hiring of a Likud activist to do electrical work at the Netanyahus' private Caesarea home and the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem.

During the negotiations, the State Prosecutor demanded that Netanyahu admit to and be charged with a criminal offense and be accused of committing fraud, but they eventually gave up on that demand. Netanyahu's attorney pressed for the case to be closed without a criminal conviction against the premier's wife.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit chose to avoid taking Netanyahu to court. Even before the indictment was filed, he tried to reach a deal with Netanyahu according to which she would admit to the felonies attributed to her, commit not to repeat them in the future and return some of the money to the state. However, that deal never materialized.