Prosecutors demand conviction of PM’s wife in catering case
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Prosecutors demand conviction of PM’s wife in catering case

State attorneys insist that Sara Netanyahu admit to criminal wrongdoing, reject proposal to settle charges without trial

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, on October 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, on October 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

State prosecutors on Monday rejected a proposal to settle corruption charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife without going to trial, saying they wanted a conviction in the case.

Sara Netanyahu and Ezra Saidoff, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, were charged in June with fraud and breach of trust over allegations they misused some $100,000 in funds on catered meals while there was a full-time chef on staff.

The announcement from prosecutors came after they met with attorneys for Netanyahu and Saidoff, as well as a court-appointed mediator overseeing arbitration proceedings.

Hebrew media reports said the parties agreed to hold another meeting, indicating the sides could still reach an agreement to avoid trial.

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

According to Channel 12 news, prosecutors are at odds with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over the case, with the former seeking a confession of criminal wrongdoing and the latter hoping to settle the charges through arbitration and thus avoid a drawn-out trial.

Last month, Channel 13 reported that prosecutors rejected three separate proposals to settle the case through arbitration.

The proposals, put forward by arbitrator Judge Mordechai Kaduri, who is vice president of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, called for Netanyahu to admit some guilt and pay fines, but not be convicted of breach of trust or fraud, the report said.

One plan was for Netanyahu to pay a fine of NIS 500,000 ($136,000) and with that the case would be closed. Another envisioned a fine of NIS 200,000 ($54,000) and Netanyahu admitting to an offense of taking advantage of another’s mistake — but without a conviction.

The third option was for the prime minister’s wife to be convicted in a plea bargain of a lesser graft charge, pay a fine and receive a suspended sentence, the report said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara aboard the USS Ross, an American guided missile destroyer, docked at the Port of Ashdod on October 11, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s trial is separate from her husband’s legal woes, which revolve around suspicions the prime minister took bribes or tried to arrange favors for media barons in exchange for positive press coverage.

Sara Netanyahu is also a suspect in one of those cases, in which she is thought to have had a hand in arranging positive media coverage from the Walla news site. Shaul Elovitch, the site’s owner, is alleged to have granted the family editorial control over some items in exchange for regulatory benefits arranged by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing, and say they are the victims of a political witch hunt driven by a hostile leftist media.

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