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Netanyahu allies back move to cancel elections; legal sources say it’s ‘spin’

Officials within Likud party reportedly admit chances plan will succeed are slim, with some pundits believing PM is seeking to place blame for vote on rival Blue and White

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (c), Government Secretary Tzahi Braverman (R) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (L) attend a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 24, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / POOL / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (c), Government Secretary Tzahi Braverman (R) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (L) attend a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 24, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / POOL / AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.

‘I’m innocent,’ freed Palestinian rape suspect says after release

As he embraces relatives for the first time in nearly two months, the Palestinian suspect released today due to a lack of evidence tying him to the alleged rape of an Israeli girl declares his innocence.

“I have so much to explain about what I went through,” says an emotional Mahmoud Qadusa, who is mobbed by dozens of Israelis reporters at the Beitunia Crossing, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“I’m a clean person, I know myself, I was always telling them, I’m not that person. They’ll do what they need. I have nothing to do with what they said about me,” he says.

— Jacob Magid

Turkish court frees US consulate worker from house arrest

A court in Istanbul has released an employee of the US consulate from house arrest for health reasons.

The court rules, however, that Nazmi Mete Canturk should continue to be barred from leaving the country pending the outcome of his trial.

Canturk — along with his wife and daughter — is on trial accused of links to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey holds responsible for a failed coup attempt in 2016. He is among three US diplomatic missions’ Turkish employees to be prosecuted on terror or espionage charges.

The top US diplomat in Turkey, Jeffrey Hovenier, welcomes Canturk’s release but says the US sees “no evidence to support the charges brought against him.”

He calls for a quick resolution of cases brought against his staff.

— AP

In Jerusalem, Russian official says downed US drone was in Iranian airspace

The US drone shot down by Tehran last week was in Iranian airspace, the head of Russia’s Security Council says, despite US claims to the contrary.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets the secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, in Jerusalem, June 24, 2019. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

“I have information from the defense ministry of the Russian Federation that this drone was in Iranian airspace,” Russian news agencies quote Nikolai Patrushev as telling reporters in Jerusalem.

Patrushev is in Jerusalem for talks with US and Israeli officials, as tensions run high after Iran shot down the US spy drone on June 19 and US President Donald Trump considered, then canceled, a retaliatory strike.

Iran insists the drone violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, but the Pentagon denies it entered Iranian territory.

— AFP

Bolton threatens more Iran sanctions, but adds US not seeking regime change

US National Security Adviser John Bolton says he believes Iran will return to the negotiating table in response to the United States’ “maximum pressure campaign,” referring to growing financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic and its leaders.

“They’ll either get the point or as the president said, we will enhance the max pressure campaign further,” he says, following a trilateral meeting with Israeli and Russian national security advisers in Jerusalem.

Seen as a hawk on Iranian issues, Bolton adds that the White House is not seeking regime change in the Islamic Republic. “That’s not the policy of the United States,” he says, acknowledging that as a private citizen he has called for this.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Speaking at a press conference, Bolton says the US is working with Russia in an effort to counter Iran in the region, especially in Syria where they threaten Israel.

The US national security adviser says Moscow also sees the removal of Iranian forces from Syria as a positive step necessary for the war-torn country’s reconstruction, despite his Russian counterpart’s remarks in an earlier press conference that Syria can keep foreign fighters in its borders for as long as it wants.

“The Russians have said repeatedly that they would like to see Iranian forces leave,” Bolton says, citing comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a recent meeting in Moscow.

He says with this trilateral meeting, the countries are working to “find a way to make it happen.”

— Judah Ari Gross

40 years after peace with Egypt, Rivlin says treaty should inspire deal with Palestinians

President Reuven Rivlin hosts an event marking the 40th anniversary of the Israel-Egypt peace agreement, saying that treaty should serve as an inspiration for peace with the Palestinians.

“Two generations of Israelis and Egyptians know only peace between our countries,” Rivlin tells Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Khaled Azmi. “The gift of peace is a tremendous gift which the leaders of Egypt and Israel have given to their children and grandchildren. I want to especially express our appreciation to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi whose commitment to peace, stability and cooperation has ensured that our relationship stays strong.”

President Reuven Rivlin speaking at an event marking the 40th anniversary of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

“The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed only six years after a terrible war between our countries in 1973,” he continues. “We could never have imagined that only a few years later our leaders would hug and shake hands. This should serve as an inspiration for our efforts to achieve peace with all of our neighbors, and especially our Palestinian neighbors and cousins.

“When courageous leaders are willing to end their conflict, and set out on a new path based on reconciliation and mutual respect, peace can be achieved more quickly than we can imagine,” he concludes, calling the Israel-Egypt peace treaty “the cornerstone of stability in the Middle East.”

Azmi agrees, saying that “Middle East peace can best be served by learning from our own past experiences. Our peace treaty has set important example in how Middle East peace is negotiated, and by what means should Arab and Israeli interests be accounted for in a peace process. Egypt was the pioneer in initiating peace in the Middle East.

“Our vision was, and still is, based on full nation-statehood and security for everyone in the region,” the Egyptian envoy adds, lamenting that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has wasted the resources and disrupted the lives of the people of the Middle East for many decades. It is saddening to claim the status quo as the most that we can achieve of the hopes and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.”

After Istanbul loss, Erdogan vows not to ignore the message

In his first public appearance since a crushing defeat in a rerun election for mayor of Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vows to draw lessons from “the messages given by the people.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his ruling party MPs, in Ankara, Turkey, June 25, 2019, two days after Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party, won the election for mayor of Istanbul. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Addressing legislators from his ruling party, Erdogan again congratulates opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu who garnered 54.21% of the vote in Istanbul on Sunday.

It was Erdogan’s first electoral defeat and broke his ruling party’s decades-old grip on Turkey’s most important city.

Erdogan says: “We don’t have the luxury of turning a deaf ear and ignoring the messages given by the people.”

He says his ruling party — which is scheduled to meet later today — will determine “failings, disunity and errors” and look for ways to fix them.

— AP

Next British PM to be announced July 23: Conservative Party

The winner of the contest to replace Theresa May as leader of Britain’s ruling Conservatives and prime minister will be announced on July 23, the ruling party says.

Former foreign minister Boris Johnson is currently the favorite in the race, battling his successor as Britain’s top diplomat, Jeremy Hunt.

Jeremy Hunt, left, and Boris Johnson, right, are the final two contenders for leadership of the Conservative Party, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo File/Matt Dunham, Frank Augstein)

— AFP

Arson balloons from Gaza start 5 blazes in southern Israel

Five brush fires break out in southern Israel due to arson balloons launched from the Gaza Strip, authorities say.

The fires rage in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions. One of them is at the Kissufim Forest.

Firefighters are at the scene, as are IDF forces, KKL-JNF staff and members of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Hamas warns Israel’s Gaza policies endangering ceasefire

A senior Hamas official warns that recent Israeli policies regarding the Gaza Strip are endangering ceasefire understandings reached after last month’s two-day flareup.

“The Israeli occupation is manipulating the fishing zone and stopping fuel supply to the power stations,” Khalil al-Hayya says, according to Palestinian media. “This puts the understandings in a dangerous situation.

“We warn the Israeli occupation not to export its internal crises to our people,” he adds.

Iranians mock Trump for mistaking leader with dead founder

US President Donald Trump is mocked by Iranians after mixing up the country’s current supreme leader with his predecessor who died 30 years ago.

“The assets of Ayatollah Khomeini and his office will not be spared by these sanctions,” Trump said yesterday as he announced new measures against Iran’s supreme leader and top officials.

But the Islamic Republic’s founder and revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died in 1989, and the country has since been led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran soccer fans cheer beneath posters depicting supreme leaders Ruhollah Khomeini (left) and Ali Khamenei during the 2018 World Cup qualifying match between Iran and China at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on March 28, 2017. (AFP/ATTA KENARE)

“Trump doesn’t know that Ayatollah Khomeini has passed away and that Ayatollah Khamenei is the leader of Iran,” tweets Sara Masoumi, diplomatic correspondent for the reformist daily Etemad.

“Has this narcissist been waiting for (a dead man) to call him?” writes another Twitter user, after Trump last month said he would like Iran to phone him.

One social media user suggests “Trump took revenge” for Khamenei reportedly mispronouncing the president’s name as Ronald.

But one Twitter user suggests there is a plot in the White House to make the US president “look like a lunatic!”

— AFP

Construction worker, 75, seriously wounded after fall at Kiryat Ono site

A 75-year-old construction worker is seriously wounded when he falls from a roof he was working on in the city of Kiryat Ono in central Israel.

Magen David Adom medics treat the man and take him to Tel Hashomer hospital in Ramat Gan in serious but stable condition, suffering from a head wound.

At least 20 workers have been killed since the start of the year at construction sites.

MK says Litzman thwarting efforts to improve Haredi treatment of child sex abuse

Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev tells Army Radio he has tried to push legislation that would train education officials in ultra-Orthodox communities on how to handle cases of child sex abuse, but they have been shot down by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

Yogev says Litzman, who is ultra-Orthodox, has torpedoed the efforts since he doesn’t want the issue of child sex abuse to be raised and discussed in his communities.

Litzman has been accused of aiding multiple sex offenders, including helping a former school principal avoid extradition to Australia, where she is wanted for molesting dozens of students.

United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman (left) and Moshe Gafni at a press conference in Bnei Brak on May 30, 2019. (Flash90)

Russia accuses US of being ‘reckless’ with new Iran sanctions

Russia accuses Washington of being reckless with new sanctions on Iran, saying Moscow stood in solidarity with Tehran.

“US authorities should think hard about where this reckless course of action can lead,” the foreign ministry says in a statement. “There is an impression that Washington is ‘burning bridges.'”

— AFP

In Jerusalem summit, Russia rejects Israeli, US portrayal of Iran as regional threat

Russia’s top national security adviser speaks out on behalf of Iran during trilateral meetings with his Israeli and American counterparts in Jerusalem, backing Tehran’s claims against the United States and supporting its ongoing presence in Syria, despite Israeli concerns that the Islamic Republic’s forces there represent a threat to the Jewish state.

Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev speaks at a trilateral summit with Israel and the United States at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on June 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton\Flash90)

In a press conference, Nikolai Patrushev rejects the view held by the US and Israel that Iran represents “the main threat to regional security” and says Israeli airstrikes in Syria against Iranian forces and proxies are “undesirable.”

Patrushev also lauds Iran’s ongoing presence in Syria — which Israel sees as an unacceptable threat. The Russian official says Iran is “contributing a lot to fighting terrorists on Syrian soil and stabilizing the situation there.”

— Judah Ari Gross

Iran to abandon more nuclear deal commitments on July 7

Iran will “resolutely” abandon more commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers on July 7, Fars News Agency reports, quoting a “note” from a top security official.

Tehran announced on May 8 that it was suspending two of its 2015 pledges and gave Europe, China and Russia a two-month ultimatum to help Iran circumvent US sanctions and sell its oil or it would abandon two more commitments.

— AFP

Caretaker at PM’s residence accused in catering case reaches plea deal

Prosecutors reach a plea deal with Ezra Saidoff, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence who was accused along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, of misusing hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds to purchase catering meals.

Ezra Saidoff, former deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office, arrives to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on October 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Similar to a plea deal with Netanyahu signed last week, Saidoff will confess to an offense of taking advantage of a mistake, avoiding an earlier charge of aggravated fraud.

According to the plea deal — which still needs to be approved in court — Saidoff will receive a suspended sentence, 150 hours of community service and a NIS 10,000 ($2,800) fine.

A year ago, Netanyahu and Saidoff were charged with fraud and breach of trust for spending $100,000 of state funds on catered meals, while there was a full-time chef on staff. That amount was slashed by half in the amended indictment to some $50,000.

10 fires sparked today in Israel by arson balloons from Gaza

The Israel Fire and Rescue Service says that in total, arson ballons from Gaza have started 10 brush fires in southern Israel today, all of which were extinguished within minutes.

According to a statement, seven of the fires were in the Eshkol region, two were in Sha’ar Hanegev and one in Sdot Negev.

France warns Iran of ‘serious mistake’ in violating nuclear deal

France’s foreign minister says Iran would be making a “serious mistake” by violating the 2015 nuclear deal in response to pressure from the United States.

“French, German and British diplomacy is completely mobilized to make Iran understand that it would not be in its interest,” Jean-Yves Le Drian tells parliament amid reports that Iran is preparing to abandon its commitments.

— AFP

Attorney general says no legal option to cancel September elections — report

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said in closed meetings that there is no legal way to cancel the September 17 elections, Channel 12 reports, amid rumors that the two biggest parties are trying to pass legislation nixing the vote and to form a unity government.

Both Likud and Blue and White have denied those reports.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a farewell ceremony for Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, at the Justice Ministry offices in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Islamic State head in Yemen captured by special forces — coalition

Saudi and Yemeni special forces have captured the head of the Islamic State group’s branch in Yemen, the Saudi-led military coalition backing the country’s government announces.

Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki says in a statement that the IS leader, named as Abu Osama al-Muhajir, was caught in an early June raid along with other members of the jihadist group.

— AFP

Officials gather in Manama as ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop about to kick off

Delegates, government officials and journalists — and at least five rabbis — start to gather at the Four Seasons hotel in Manama, the Bahraini capital, for the US-led “Peace to Prosperity” workshop, which is scheduled to start later tonight.

Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, from the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Rabbi Marc Schneier, an adviser for interfaith affairs to the king of Bahrain; Montreal-based Rabbi Mayer Gniwisch, the owner of a venture capital fund that invests in Israel; and one rabbi who asked to remain unnamed, are mixing with Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, and boss of soccer’s world governing body FIFA Gianni Infantino.

Jared Kushner, the senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, and US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, have not yet arrived.

Ashraf Jabari, the only Palestinian businessman known to attend the event, is sitting on a couch near the entrance of the hotel. He is joined by a handful of fellow Palestinians, who ask not to be interviewed but said they support Jabari and his decision not to boycott the event.

— Raphael Ahren

Trump calls Iran response ‘ignorant and insulting,’ threatens obliteration

US President Donald Trump slams the “ignorant and insulting” response from Iran to his offer of talks, extended as the United States slapped new sanctions on the country’s already crippled economy.

“Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality,” he tweets, referring to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying the White House is “afflicted by mental retardation.”

Trump also warns Iran that “any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”

Iran’s leaders only understand “Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world,” Trump says in the tweet.

Yesterday, Trump ordered punitive sanctions targeting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs, and promised to blacklist its foreign minister — but said the door was open to talks on reducing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

— AFP

Bahraini crown prince arrives at Manama workshop site

Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, deputy king and crown prince of Bahrain, arrives at the “Peace for Prosperity” workshop site in Manama, as the summit is set to officially begin at 7 p.m. (local time).

Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa arrives at the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Manama, Bahrain, June 25, 2019. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

— Raphael Ahren

Retired Israeli politician Tzipi Livni says she’s in Bahrain

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who quit politics earlier this year after she was ousted from the Zionist Union, says she is in Bahrain as the US-led Peace to Prosperity workshop is set to begin.

“I heard it’s nice in Bahrain so I also came,” Livni tweets. “The truth is I was invited to speak at a different conference about the Middle East before it became crowded here.”

Security concerns may end Malmo’s Jewish community by 2029

The Jewish Community of Malmo, Sweden, may need to dissolve itself by 2029 unless its current circumstances change.

Community spokesman Fredrik Sieradski confirms to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the shutdown is a “possible scenario” following a report Friday in Expressen, in which a local politician said the Jewish community had said it may “die out” in the coming decade, partly because of alleged indifference by authorities to the community’s security needs.

Illustrative: In this March 3, 2010 photo, a man sits behind a glassed-in reception area of the high security Jewish community center located in central Malmo, Sweden. (AP Photo/Pamela Juhl)

The debate is about a donation of more than $4 million by two philanthropists to cover security costs. The donation followed the objection of the city government’s ruling coalition, comprising the local chapter of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s Swedish Social Democratic Party and the Liberals, to allocate the funds from the municipal budget, Expressen reported.

Malmo’s Jewish community has declined amid frequent threats and attacks, mostly by Muslims, from 1,200 several years ago to an estimated 800 or fewer members today.

Malmo has about 300,000 residents in total, of whom more than a third were either born in Muslim countries or to immigrants from such countries, according to the municipality’s own data.

Last year, the Jewish Community of Umea in northern Sweden dissolved itself primarily over threats by neo-Nazis, but also in connection with harassment by radical Muslims, its former leader, Carinne Sjoberg, has said. It was the first time in decades that any European Jewish community dissolved itself over security concerns.

Malmo may need to follow suit unless “more is done to create change,” Sieradski says.

— JTA

PHOTO: Bahraini FM chats with rabbi, Israeli hospital manager at Manama workshop

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (L) speaking with Rabbi Marc Schneier and Yitzhak Kreiss, head of the Sheba Medical Center in central Israel, at the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Manama, Bahrain, June 25, 2019. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

WATCH: Bahrain workshop begins with speech by Jared Kushner

The US-led “Peace to Prosperity” workshop kicks off in Manama, Bahrain, with a speech by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner calls Trump peace plan ‘opportunity of the century’

In his speech at the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner tells Palestinians the United States has “not given up on you,” and refers to the administration’s peace deal not as the “deal of the century,” as previously dubbed, but the “opportunity of the century.”

“Agreeing on an economic pathway forward is a necessary precondition to resolving the previously unsolvable political issues,” Kushner says.

While the two-day meeting will not address political solutions in the Middle East, Kushner acknowledges the need to take them up later.

“To be clear, economic growth and prosperity for the Palestinian people are not possible without an enduring and fair political solution to the conflict — one that guarantees Israel’s security and respects the dignity of the Palestinian people.”

— with AFP

Melania Trump’s spokeswoman tapped as White House press secretary

Melania Trump has announced that her spokeswoman will be the new White House press secretary.

Stephanie Grisham, who has been with the Trumps since 2015, will also take on the role of White House communications director.

The US first lady tweets that she “can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country.”

Grisham succeeds Sarah Sanders, who announced her resignation earlier this month.

— AP

Knesset speaker acting to cancel September elections — report

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has begun a “substantial” new push to formally cancel the September 17 elections, Channel 12 news reports.

Despite Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit reportedly saying earlier today that calling off the vote isn’t legally possible, the TV network says that over the last hours, a way was found to do so legally.

According to the report, the Knesset Presidium will be convened to cancel the parliament’s current hiatus. A new law will then be introduced that enables the parliament to cancel elections, and then gathering support from enough lawmakers so that it passes.

According to a previous report, the move could be aimed at forming a unity government that includes both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and its main rival, Blue and White.

SpaceIL won’t send second spacecraft to the moon since it ‘isn’t challenging’

Israeli firm SpaceIL says it won’t repeat its attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon, despite the crash landing of the Beresheet in April.

The second mission had already been announced and named Beresheet 2, but SpaceIL says it has “held in-depth discussions on the appropriate nature of Beresheet 2’s mission, and reached the conclusion that the attempt to repeat the moon journey isn’t challenging enough.”

The company says it received positive feedback that indicated Beresheet is remembered as a success despite the landing failure. It adds it will update the public on the new nature of the mission when that is decided.

Netanyahu ‘considering’ plan to cancel elections; Blue and White blasts ‘spin’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to confirm a Channel 12 news report that his Likud party is taking renewed action to cancel the September 17 elections, although the rival Blue and White party dismisses it as “spin.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is seriously considering Knesset Speaker [Yuli] Edelstein’s offer and will examine it in the coming days,” Likud says.

Blue and White blasts the prospect as “another spin designed to make the public forget that Netanyahu failed at forming a government, favored his personal benefit and single-handedly dragged an entire country to unnecessary elections.

“Netanyahu understands he is about to lose the elections and is now looking for magic solutions,” it adds. “We are going to elections and Benny Gantz will be Israel’s next prime minister.”

Likud allies express support for Netanyahu’s push to cancel new elections

Parties allied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud quickly express support for a potential move to cancel the September elections.

Kulanu, United Torah Judaism, Shas and the Union of Right-Wing Parties all support the idea, though it isn’t yet clear whether it is legally possible.

Even if it is, Netanyahu will need the support of at least one more party to gain the necessary majority to pass legislation making it possible for the Knesset to retroactively walk back its dissolution.

Legal officials say Netanyahu’s push to call off elections is a ‘spin’ — report

Senior legal sources quoted by Channel 13 news say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push to cancel the September elections “seems like a spin,” indicating the plan is likely to face significant legal hurdles.

The TV channel even cites sources within Netanyahu’s Likud party as saying the chances for the vote actually being called off are slim.

Some pundits claim the whole move is only designed to garner media attention in an attempt to place the blame for the unpopular new elections on the rival Blue and White party.

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Caretaker at PM’s residence accused in catering case reaches plea deal

Prosecutors reach a plea deal with Ezra Saidoff, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence who was accused along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, of misusing hundreds of thousands of shekels in state funds to purchase catering meals.

Ezra Saidoff, former deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office, arrives to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on October 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Similar to a plea deal with Netanyahu signed last week, Saidoff will confess to an offense of taking advantage of a mistake, avoiding an earlier charge of aggravated fraud.

According to the plea deal — which still needs to be approved in court — Saidoff will receive a suspended sentence, 150 hours of community service and a NIS 10,000 ($2,800) fine.

A year ago, Netanyahu and Saidoff were charged with fraud and breach of trust for spending $100,000 of state funds on catered meals, while there was a full-time chef on staff. That amount was slashed by half in the amended indictment to some $50,000.