The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged with fraud for spending $100,000 in state money to pay for gourmet take-out from upscale restaurants from 2010 to 2013 and also illegally paid for a private chef, prosecutors charge.
Here’s what you need to know about the 59-year-old former flight attendant, military intelligence psychologist and one-time reporter:
1. Dubbed the ‘Prepared Food Affair,’ Sara Netanyahu Ordered Staff to Keep the Scandal Quiet, Prosecutors Say
The Jerusalem Post reported Netanyahu was charged with “fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust.” The Post called the arrest “an explosive development which shook the country on Thursday.”
The Post wrote the indictment charges she “instructed staff at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to order meals consumed at the residence worth a total of 350,000 shekels ($96,000) from gourmet restaurants between 2010 and 2013 in violation of rules barring the residence from ordering meals from the outside during periods when the residence had a cook on its staff.”
The investigation found that Sara Netanyahu “ordered that the employment of cook at the residence be concealed and that she was aware that ordering meals from the outside for the residence when it employed a cook was a violation of the rules,” the Post reported. She allegedly ordered staff to conspire and “hide the fact that cooks were employed in the residence ‘so that this won’t be found out by the treasury and the office manager.’ he indictment states that in accordance with her order, Naftali passed this message on to other residence staff,” the Post report reads.
2. A Deal For Her to Pay Some of the Money Back Without a Charge or Plea Was Unsuccessful
Haaretz reported Tuesday that a hearing earlier this year offered Sara Netanyahu a plea deal and that those efforts were ongoing. But she “refused to agree to pay the residence for the value of the meals and to admit to the allegations against her.”
The Post reported “there were continuous efforts to reach a plea bargain right down to the end” but though she’d “return some of the funds” she would not admit guilt and end up with a record.
Some Israeli media are drawing parallels to 1977 when Yitzhak Rabin resigned in advance of his wife Leah’s indictment.
In 1977, when Leah Rabin was on the verge of being indicted, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin left office in the face of his wife’s legal scandal.
The Jerusalem Post said Benjamin Netanyahu “is not considering such a move, but the indictment damages him politically…”
In fact, it’s reported Netanyahu himself is likely to face an indictment in “early 2019.”
3. Sara Netanyahu Has Been Sued by Former Staff & Received Improper Gifts From Hollywood
Though she won two libel cases against the media for gossip pieces, she was accused of spending lavishly during travel abroad with her husband and tried to sue again but was shut down when it was found the trips were not okayed by the government. She was sued by her housekeeper for verbal abuse and withholding pay, and by a bodyguard who claimed she created a hostile work environment He was awarded damages.
Haartez reported in 2017 that Sara Netanyahu received “gifts” from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan including wine though her husband said according to Channel 10, Sara said, “Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) really didn’t know that I was receiving wine from Milchan …He’s a prime minister and a very busy person. He would come back for dinner, see wine on the table and didn’t ask any questions about where it came from. The thought didn’t even occur to him.”
Reportedly Netanyahu also told investigators that the wine was “much cheaper” than what has previously been reported, and that she “doesn’t drink expensive champagne,” according to Israeli media.
4. Netanyahu Has a Close Friendship With the Trumps & Her Husband With Jared Kushner
A year ago, when Pres. Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and other Trump family members arrived in Israel, Newsweek reported, the after the Netanyahus welcomed the first couple at the Tel Aviv airport, “Israel’s Channel 2 broadcaster caught the remarks between the two women. ‘You know in Israel all the people like us, the media hate us but the people love us,’ Sara Netanyahu said to Melania Trump. “Like you.”
“President Trump replied, ‘We have a lot in common,’ to which Sara Netanyahu said, ‘We’ll talk about it over dinner,'” it was reported.
And Prime Minister Netanyahu has had a decades-long relationship with the Kushners and, as reported by The New York Times and Haaretz, “Netanyahu spent the night in Kushner’s bed when he was a guest in the Kushner home on a trip to the United States before becoming prime minister. Jared, a teenager at the time, bunked in the basement for the night.”
On numerous occasions the two met over the years and Kushner’s father Charles, who served 14 months in prison for tax fraud, “illegal contributions and suborning a witness,” The Times and Haaretz reported, “when Murray Kushner, Charles’ brother, filed a suit against him, part of the misuse of funds included paying hundreds of thousands of speaking fees to Netanyahu.” And Kushner was on a most-likely-to-give campaign donor list.
5. Sara Netanyahu is a Psychologist Who Worked in Military Intelligence
Sara Netanyahu, née Ben-Artz, 59, married Benjamin Netanyahu in 1991. The couple have two adult sons. According to her curriculum vitae, she’s a psychologist who worked for the Israel Defense Forces as a “psycho-technical evaluator in the Department of Behavioral Sciences of the Military Intelligence Directorate.
She was also once a reporter for a teen magazine and a flight attendant for El Al airlines. She has a BA in psychology at Tel Aviv University and a master’s degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.