Kafe Knesset for September 8

Boom! After months of investigations, deliberations, leaks and discussions over Sara Netanyahu’s alleged criminal affairs – Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has officially announced that the PM’s wife will be indicted, She will be charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly diverting public funds for her own private uses. According to the AG’s statement, during 2010-2013, Netanyahu ordered hundreds of meals prepared by chefs as well as take-out meals worth NIS 360,000 (over $100,000) while employing a full-time official cook at the PM’s Residence. Netanyahu has a “partner in crime” who will also be indicted. Ezra Saidoff, the former deputy director-general in the Prime Minister’s Office, will also be charged. Saidoff is alleged to have helped Mrs. Netanyahu present a “false representation” that there was no full-time cook at the residence. This enabled billing the external food orders to the State. Saidoff also allegedly falsified invoices to chefs and waiters invited to the residence, in order to pay more for the outside personnel and meals. The original investigation against Sara Netanyahu included three additional affairs – the electrician affair, the “father’s homecare” affair, and the garden furniture affair – all of which the AG decided not to pursue.

Netanyahu’s first line of defense is to kill the messenger. She blames the high expenses that were incurred on Meni Naftali, the residence’s former chief superintendent. Naftali is the leader of the weekly Petah Tikva anti-corruption protests. “The expenses for foods and ordered tray meals miraculously inflated during Meni Naftali’s term as caretaker, and miraculously fell as soon as he left,” according to the the PM. This reaction was posted on Facebook shortly after the AG’s announcement came out. The Facebook posting attached infographics of the official residence expenses in recent years. “Why did expenses surge in these years? Who ate or took out this enormous amount of meals – which is enough for a football team? Certainly not the Netanyahu family. The investigators talked about about the furniture, the electrician, the bottles, the waiters, the caretaker – all that remained is a bizarre and false story about carry-out trays, which were mainly ordered by Meni Natali.”

The indictment will not be formally issued until Sara Netanyahu goes through a hearing, but one can only imagine the atmosphere on Balfour Street this morning. At least the Netanyahus have something to look forward to. On Sunday evening, they will be taking off for an 11 day overseas trip, starting with a historic first-ever visit by an Israeli PM to Latin America. The trip will conclude in their favorite city – New York City. However, criminal news is likely to follow them abroad as well. On September 17th – the same date Netanyahu is slated to meet President Trump – the gag order expires concerning the testimony of Bibi’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow. At that point, new embarrassing details about the Netanyahus’ lifestyle could be on the way.

Channel 20 is saved: In good news for the Netanyahus, Channel 20 is staying on the air. Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, who is extremely loyal to the Prime Minister, intervened to make sure the Cable and Satellite Authority does not shut down the right-wing station. The TV regulator had recommended foreclosing on the channels NIS 4 million guarantees. This foreclosure, according to the law, is the first step before closing the channel. Cable and Satellite Authority chairwoman Dr. Yifat Ben Chai-Segev pointed out that Channel 20 violated its license, which said it can’t broadcast news, and 75% of its content has to be about Jewish heritage. Now, Kara says he will make sure the channel can legally report the news. All this means that Netanyahu’s #1 fan, much-mocked media personality and avid tweeter Shimon Riklin, is not out of a job.

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