The prosecution and defense lawyers for the Prime Minister's wife, Sara Natanyahu, agreed in Jerusalem Magistrate's court on Thursday to refer to the mediation in an attempt to resolve the case. The case involves meals ordered at the government expense at the prime minister's residence.
According to the indictment, Prime Minister's wife ordered a total of 360,000 shekels ($ 100,000) from gourmet restaurants between 2010 and 2013. She thus allegedly violated rules for residence from ordering meals from outside while there was a cook on its staff.
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She was charged with Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general of the prime minister's office. The two were charged with aggravated fraudulent receiving of an item or items, fraud and breach of trust. Saidoff was also charged with falsification by a public servant. Saidoff also agreed to mediation of the case, which was proposed by Magistrate's Court President Avital Chen. Deputy Court President Mordechai Kaduri has been appointed mediator. Mediation has become more common in criminal cases than its use in efforts to settle civil lawsuits.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has had protracted negotiations with Sara Natyahuahu's lawyers since the charges were filed in June, hoping to reach an agreement on the disposition of the case. He proposed that the charges against her be dropped if she reimbursed the state for allegedly improper spending at the prime minister's residence, but he conditioned the agreement on the prime minister's wife's admission to the allegations against her.
So far, she has refused to make such an admission, and both sides have expressed doubts about the prospects of the mediation, which is held behind closed doors, and hence of avoiding a trial.