Lawyers for Mrs. Sara Netanyahu have adopted the argument that the state’s charges against her for misuse of funds is itself unconstitutional.
The line of defense was initially put forth by Bar-Ilan University Law Prof. Ariel Bendor, who contends that the restrictions on expenditures at the Prime Minister’s Residence contravened the law, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.
Bendor noted that a committee of three officials in the Prime Minister’s Office set the financial limits for meals, which Mrs. Netanyahu is accused of violating.
However, Section 36 of the Basic Law on Government authorizes only the Knesset Finance Committee to determine limits on expenditures for ministers, including the prime minister. The parameters set by the PMO exceeded those issued by the Finance Committee in 1981, and were therefore not binding.
Furthermore, he argues that the PMO interference in such matters violated the separation of powers, as they sought to arrogate to the executive branch powers granted to the legislative branch.
It appears that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who approved the indictment of Mrs. Netanyahu, has rejected Bendor’s argument as at best tangential to the case. Since the main allegations against her relate to fraudulent conduct, the question of whether the rule-makers had the right to make those rules may be immaterial.
However, since Avigdor Liberman used a similar constitutionality argument to obtain his acquittal from fraud charges in 2013, perhaps it may work for Mrs. Netanyahu as well.