A family affair for Netanyahu as woes mount for Israeli PM
FEW FOREIGN trips can have been more eagerly anticipated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara than the one they began on Sunday night. Their planned tenday visit to Latin America and the United Nations General Assembly in New York follows a weekend from hell, which started with the Attorney General’s decision to indict Mrs Netanyahu for defrauding the public purse and ended with a bizarre online scandal in which their son, Yair, posted an antisemitic-style cartoon on his Facebook page. And that represents only a small part of the couple’s current legal woes.
The announcement from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt’s office that he had decided, pending a hearing, to indict Mrs Netanyahu for misuse of public funds in the Prime Minister’s official residence had been expected. What was more damaging for the couple was the level of detail on the charge-sheet. Mrs Netanyahu is to be charged with defrauding the state of 359,000 shekels (£77,000) over a two-and-a-half year period from September 2010 for ordering meals from some of the finest restaurants in Jerusalem. According to the charges, Mrs Netanyahu and a senior official in the Prime Minister’s office conspired to hide the fact that the residence had a cook.
The family and its attorneys have sought to deflect charges of fraud by accusing a former employee,
Meni Naftali, of “padding the bills”. But their claims that the food Mrs Netanyahu ordered was “just a few hot trays” are undermined by the discovery of bills from fancy restaurants suggesting that, in some months, close to 24,000 shekels (£5,000) worth of gourmet food headed to the residence.
Mr Naftali, who has previously successfully sued Mrs Netanyahu for abusive employment, also featured in the couple’s second recent scandal. His face was among those in a photoshopped cartoon posted on Shabbat to the Facebook page of the Prime Minister’s son Yair. Mr Naftali’s image was alongside those of Jewish financier George Soros, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Labour politician Eldad Yaniv, who has been organising demonstrations calling to indict Benjamin Netanyahu. The cartoon originated on an antisemitic website and the Facebook post was greeted with glee by the Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, and former KKK leader David Duke.
Yair Netanyahu angrily accused Mr Barak, who responded to the post, of being drunk and he also told a Haaretz journalist that he works for a newspaper owned by Nazis. The post was taken down after a day and the Prime Minister refused to answer questions about it.
The Prime Minister could well be facing his own indictment soon, as police are planning to recommend he be charged in the “gifts case” currently under investigation. Last week, two of the businessmen suspected of having given the Netanyahus valuable gifts — Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Sir Leonard Blavatnik, who was ranked by the Sunday Times in 2015 as the richest man in Britain, were questioned by Israeli police at the embassy in London.
Both men are known to be close to Mr Netanyahu. Mr Blavatnik is the majority shareholder in Israel’s Channel Ten.
The post was greeted with glee by the former KKK leader’
Benjamin, Sara and Yair Netanyahu all courted controversy