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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara wave as Netanyahu speaks following the announcement of exit polls in Israel's parliamentary election at the party headquarters in Tel Avi on April 10, 2019. Photo by REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli PM’s wife accepts plea deal for spending government money on lavish meals

JERUSALEM — Sara Netanyahu, wife of the Israeli prime minister, struck a guilty plea bargain Wednesday settling allegations that she overspent some $100,000 of state money on lavish meals, state prosecutors said.

Mrs. Netanyahu will pay around $15,000 in fines to quietly close the case, which accused her of running up large tabs at luxury restaurants for friends and family while the official prime minister’s residence employed a full-time chef.

Last year, Mrs. Netanyahu, 60, was indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust. According to the indictment, she strove “to circumvent the rules and conditions governing the prime minister’s official residence in order to fraudulently obtain state funding for various expenses” from the years 2010 to 2013.

READ MORE: 4 corruption scandals swirling around Benjamin Netanyahu, explained

The plea deal, which was finalized in a Jerusalem court Wednesday, saw Mrs. Netanyahu admit to a more minor charge of “intentionally exploiting the mistake of someone else,” specifically by misleading officials who didn’t realize she already benefited from chefs on the government payroll.

Under the terms of the bargain, Mrs. Netanyahu agreed to pay $2,800 in fines and hand the remaining $12,500 back to the state. The settlement also reduced the overspending at stake to around $50,000.

The family lawyer confirmed the deal’s details but declined comment. The State Attorney’s office justified its leniency in a statement, saying Mrs. Netanyahu deserves credit for confessing to a criminal offense that she had consistently denied.

Mrs. Netanyahu has long come under fire for extravagant spending and abusive behavior. In 2016, a court ruled she mistreated a housecleaner and awarded the man $42,000 in damages. Other employees have accused her of abuse, charges the Netanyahus reject. Former housekeeper Shira Raban is currently suing Mrs. Netanyahu for $63,000 in damages over mistreatment and harassment, her lawyer said. She made her first court appearance Tuesday in Jerusalem.

But the prime minister himself remains the real focus of the family’s repeated legal troubles. Netanyahu is facing an indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing now scheduled for early October. He has pushed for a postponement, and can still request an extension from the Supreme Court.

The prime minister is accused of accepting lavish gifts from billionaire friends, and promising to promote advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage. He vehemently denies wrongdoing, portraying himself as a victim of a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at ousting him.

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