July 23, 2019
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Israeli PM's wife takes plea deal, avoids corruption case

Jerusalem, Jun 16 (efe-epa).- The wife of Israel's prime minister reached a plea deal with the prosecutor's office Sunday after admitting to having misused state funds to pay for private meals.

Sara Netanyahu went to a court in Jerusalem to sign the agreement that was reached at the end of May, after a six-month mediation, to pay 45,000 shekels ($12,500) to the state and a fine of 10,000.

Sara avoided the charges of fraud and breach of trust that she was accused of last year after paying for food and catering at the prime minister's residence. The residence already has an official chef.

Instead, Sara will be facing minor charges.

Sara and Ezra Saidoff, a former caretaker at the prime minister's residence, were accused of fraud and breach of trust for spending $100,000 of state funds.

Saidoff will have to pay 10,000 shekels (around $3,000) and do community service.

Meanwhile, Sara's husband, Benjamin Netanyahu, was accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three criminal investigations, named case 1000, case 2000 and case 3000.

The three corruption proceedings being pursued by the Israeli Attorney General involved one allegation that the Netanyahu family received lavish gifts for political favors and that the prime minister boosted certain media outlets over others in exchange for positive coverage.

A separate accusation, related to claims Netanyahu and several close associates received illicit funds as part of the state purchase of German submarines, also reared its head in the run-up to the April 9 heated parliamentary elections.

Yet, neither the series of corruption scandals nor a powerful rival in the form of former military man Benny Gantz running for the left-wing Blue and White coalition were able to dethrone Netanyahu as the incumbant went on to win the April 9 ballot.

However, in a right wing power-play in late May, Avigdor Lieberman - former defense minister under Netanyahu made Kingmaker from the April 9 electoral results - forced Israelis back to the polls in a second parliamentary election set for Sept. 17 after he refused to prop up Netanyahu's coalition.

This is the first time that this situation has arisen in Israel since the country's creation.

If Netanyahu wins again on Sept. 17 it will allow him to begin his fifth term in office, his fourth consecutive, making him the longest-serving prime minister since David Ben-Gurion, the founder of Israel.

lfp/hi/sdh/ch

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