Netanyahu’s wife convicted for misusing public funds after racking up $50k in catering bills

The judge in a Jerusalem court ordered Sara Netanyahu to pay NIS 55,000 ($15,210) as a fine and compensation on Sunday, after she had agreed to a plea deal four days earlier. Sara, the third wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was initially indicted for spending $100,000 in state funds on luxurious meals from the country’s top restaurants between 2010 and 2013. Such expenses are forbidden, as she had already been allocated a full-time chef at the residence – something she reportedly misrepresented to internal auditors when filing her expenses. The size of the alleged overspend was slashed to $50,000 this week, though she will not have to pay back even the reduced amount in full, unless the state pursues a separate civil case.

Despite voluntarily admitting her misdemeanor, Sara Netanyahu presented herself as the victim at the hearing, saying she’d “suffered enough” during the humiliating case, in which a senior residence official is also expected to plead guilty.

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Her lawyer, Yossi Cohen, told the court in his closing statement that the investigation was a means of targeting her husband, who is facing an election in September.

“This is one of the most severe and hurtful punishments that a person I know has received. This is the result of four years of ugly, tendentious, libelous leaks that spilled my client’s blood. They forgot she is also a mother, a wife,” said Cohen.

“I stood here astonished at the lengths our society is willing to go to hurt a person,” he continued. “And of course nobody wanted to hurt Mrs Netanyahu. The goal was to hurt her husband, topple the government.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been prime minister since 2009, faces a spate of more serious allegations, including illegal gift acceptance and media-influence peddling.

While proceedings have been ongoing for years, Netanyahu is particularly vulnerable after failing to cobble together a right-wing coalition following what appeared to be a victory in April’s election. This forced him to call a new vote, in which he is currently expected to do even worse.

Although his wife is not an active political figure, she serves as a lightning rod for satirists and political opponents over her reportedly lavish lifestyle and demanding personality. A ex-residence official successfully claimed $40,000 against his former employers for mistreatment three years ago.

Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of Donald Trump, has dismissed all charges against his family – including legal trouble concerning his son – as a “witch hunt.”

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