High Court rejects petition seeking civil lawsuit against Sara Netanyahu

Movement for Quality Government sought to get back NIS 175,000 ex-PM’s wife illegally spent on catering; ruling is latest legal decision in favor of the Netanyahus

Sara Netanyahu at a voting station in Jerusalem, during national elections, on March 23, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Sara Netanyahu at a voting station in Jerusalem, during national elections, on March 23, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The High Court of Justice rejected on Thursday a petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, aimed at forcing the state to file a civil lawsuit against Sara Netanyahu for her illegal use of state funds to procure expensive catered meals while her husband, Benjamin Netanyahu, was prime minister.

In 2019, Netanyahu was convicted in a plea bargain that saw her confess to the obscure charge of “taking unfair advantage of a mistake” while avoiding a conviction for aggravated fraud.

She was ordered to pay NIS 55,000 ($15,210) — NIS 10,000 as a fine, and the rest as a partial refund to the state for the sum that she unlawfully spent.

The plea bargain also allowed for the state to file a civil lawsuit in order to get the rest of the NIS 175,000 prosecutors claimed she had spent on the meals.

But last May, then-attorney general Avichai Mandelblit said he would not file a civil lawsuit against Netanyahu.

State prosecutors had advised Mandelblit not to sue, noting that Netanyahu had already admitted her guilt in a criminal case two years ago and that there was little hope of getting back the missing money.

Then-attorney general Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference in Tel Aviv, on June 29, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In his announcement last year, Mandelblit said he was adopting the position of legal experts that “there is no need to file a civil lawsuit against Netanyahu under the circumstances of the case.”

He added that there were “legal difficulties in conducting the proceedings, including allegations of [the case not being within the] statute of limitations, due to the incidents dating back to September 2010, more than a decade ago, as well as the fact that the criminal case already ended in a plea bargain.”

The Movement for Quality Government decided to petition the court against Mandelblit’s decision in an attempt to have the suit filed by his successor, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who took office in February.

But the court found no justification for judicial intervention, rejecting the petition and ruling that the organization must pay NIS 5,000 for the legal expenses of the involved parties.

“The truth continues to prevail,” Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted after the ruling.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara address their supporters on the night of the Israeli elections, at Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The decision is the latest in a series of legal rulings in favor of the Netanyahus.

In late February, a labor court rejected claims of abuse by a woman who worked as a cleaner for Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Residence, ruling that the worker’s version was unreliable and that she had failed to prove there was abusive behavior on Netanyahu’s part.

Earlier that month, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court rejected a request by former prime minister Ehud Olmert for Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and eldest son Yair to undergo a psychiatric evaluation as part of a defamation lawsuit the Netanyahus filed against Olmert for calling them “mentally ill” in interviews.

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