A fam­ily af­fair for Ne­tanyahu as woes mount for Is­raeli PM

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

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’

PHOTO:GETTY IMAGES

Ben­jamin, Sara and Yair Ne­tanyahu all courted con­tro­versy

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