The steady leak of transcripts from the testimony of Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, continued Sunday, with media quoting her as telling police that one of the people leveling accusations against her was “a shitty cook.”
Netanyahu repeatedly denied the allegations that led to her indictment for misappropriation of over $100,000 in state funds to buy gourmet food, calling the witnesses against her “liars.”
The prime minister’s wife was indicted last week along with Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, on charges of fraud and breach of trust. The two are accused of fraudulently charging some NIS 359,000 ($100,000) in gourmet meals to the state’s expense between 2010 and 2013.
In further transcripts of Sara Netanyahu’s testimony to police during questioning, broadcast by Channel 10 news on Sunday, she told investigators that the probe was “a disgrace,” and that all the investigators are interested in is food, “what the prime minister ate.”
The transcripts added to those published Friday, in which she claimed that she was running an “austerity regime.”
When presented with testimony of witnesses, Netanyahu’s response to almost every question was, “That is a lie.”
The investigator told her that witnesses had told police that she expected them to fulfill her every command no matter what.
“That is completely false,” she said. “Most of my requests they refused completely. They didn’t do anything I asked.”
She insisted that she was more cautious about state funding than any other prime minister of Israel, and blamed Menny Naftali — the former Prime Minister’s Residence manager, who last year successfully sued her for verbal and emotional abuse — for “wasting money like crazy.”
“Etti Haim (one of the cooks) told us that she was told that you wanted to conceal the fact that she was cooking,” the investigator told Sara Netanyahu.
“She is a liar and gross member of Manny Naftali’s garbage group,” Netanyahu said. “She circulated false stories about me. Everything she said about me was a lie. She’s a shitty cook. She also claimed once that the prime minister loved her food and that is a lie.”
In the indictment, she and Saidoff are accused of violating laws that ban the ordering of prepared food from outside when a chef is already employed at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
According to the indictment, Netanyahu falsely claimed there was no cook available at the Jerusalem home, in order to justify purchasing meals from restaurants.
The charges against Saidoff are more severe, as he is also accused of illicitly hiring chefs and servers for private meals at the Netanyahu home. The PMO staffer also allegedly falsified invoices for such activities, in order to get them approved.
The indictment also covers the employment of an electrician, whose hiring had originally been scrapped by the PMO, due to the man’s close connection to the Netanyahu family.
The prime minister has slammed the indictment against her, calling it “a new height of absurdity.”
Sara Netanyahu’s attorneys have also denied any wrongdoing on her part.
“There was no fraud and no breach of trust or accepting bribes or any crime at all. The prime minister’s wife, who is not a public servant, does not know the regulations, and passed a polygraph test when she was asked about this,” they said.
“Not only is the indictment based on false claims,” they said, “it is based entirely on invalid and illegal regulations that apply specifically to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to him alone.”
The decision to launch the investigation into Sara Netanyahu came in light of the state prosecutor’s recommendation, after allegations were raised in a 2015 report by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira that detailed lavish spending at the official residence in Jerusalem, as well as at the Netanyahus’ Caesarea home.
Under state regulations, cooks at the Prime Minister’s Residence are supposed to supply prime ministers and their immediate families with daily meals. Where cooks are not employed, the PM’s family is permitted to order external meals, up to a maximum cost of NIS 200 ($57) per person plus VAT. The state is also authorized to foot the bill for private guests of the prime minister and his or her spouse, so long as the meal is not a social or family event involving more than 20 people.
A draft indictment, which was leaked last year, detailed allegedly illegal spending of up to NIS 25,000 (some $7,000) per month by the prime minister’s wife on meals from top restaurants in Jerusalem. It detailed 15 cases in which Sara Netanyahu ordered food from outside chefs, including Shalom Kadosh and Lior Hafzadi.
In addition to the fraud case, Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu have also been questioned as part of the Bezeq telecommunications giant graft probe. The case involves suspicions Prime Minister Netanyahu advanced regulations benefiting Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage from Bezeq’s Walla news site.
Police have also recommended the prime minister himself stand trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two other cases. The attorney general has yet to decide whether to press charges against the prime minister.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000). In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan’s behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings, and visa arrangements.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
The Netanyahus have denied wrongdoing in all the cases.