Netanyahu slams indictment against wife as 'absurdity'
The prime minister claims indictment filed against his wife Sara Netanyahu is based on 'an illegal procedure' set by 'three bureaucrats with no authorization,' which 'did not receive the approval required by law from the Knesset's Finance Committee.'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Friday the indictment filed against his wife, dubbing it "absurdity (that) hit a new record."
"For the first time in history, an indictment is filed against the wife of a leader over food and takeout," Netanyahu said in a video posted on his Facebook page.
"Forget the fact everyone ate from that food - the residence's employees, official guests, even heads of states. The most absurd thing about this indictment is that it's based on an illegal procedure," the prime minister added.
"Five days before I took the office of prime minister in 2009, three bureaucrats with no authorization set a special procedure. But they did not receive the approval required by law from the Knesset's Finance Committee, and only it has a say," he explained. "The committee determined the state needs to fund the expenses of the prime minister and his family at the prime minister's residence, just like in the president's residence."
Thus, he determined, "The indictment is based on an illegal procedure, and won't hold water."
Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister's wife, was charged on Thursday with fraudulently obtaining benefits under aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust in what has been dubbed the "residence affair."
Mrs. Netanyahu is suspected of ordering private meals worth some NIS 350,000 (roughly $96,600) from high-end restaurants with the state footing the bill, although a cook had been hired to prepare the meals at the residence.
The indictment was filed nine months after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his decision to file charges against the prime minister's wife pending a hearing. The State Attorney's Office requested that the trial would be held under a three-judge panel due to "public sensitivity" and "the defendant's public position."
The former deputy director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, Ezra Saidoff, was also indicted, and he is facing similar charges of fraudulently obtaining benefits under aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust. He was also accused of falsifying documents in three different affairs at the Prime Minister's Residence.
A statement from the State Attorney's Office said Mrs. Netanyahu's claims, as well as those of Saidoff, have been rejected.
According to the indictment, from the beginning of September 2010 at the latest and until March 2013, Sara Netanyahu acted in conjunction with Saidoff to create a false impression according to which no cook was employed at the prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem.
So far, there has also been no meaningful progress in the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office's talks with Mrs. Netanyahu's legal team over the past month on a "conditional settlement" that would bring the case to a resolution without trial.
Such a settlement would entail Mrs. Netanyahu admitting to the details of the indictment, but not her culpability. She would also accept, according to the settlement, a punishment such as a fine, a suspended sentence or community service.
Saidoff's lawyer, Yehoshua Reznik, said in response to the indictment: "We are convinced that Mr. Saidoff did not commit any offense in the prime minister's residence affairs. Mr. Saidoff acted with integrity and legally, and all his actions were coordinated with all relevant elements at the (Prime Minister's Office.
"The indictment against Mr. Saidoff is based on a mistake and is not in line with the legal and factual situation as revealed in the evidence in the case. We are certain and hope that the trial will end with Mr. Saidoff's acquittal of all charges."