​Bottlegate? Netanyahu denies wife pocketed state money in cash-for-bottles scheme

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara. (Reuters/Nir Elias)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied reports that his wife, Sara, stole thousands of dollars worth of state funds from bottles returned to local supermarkets on her orders.

In a Facebook post, Netanyahu railed against the “false accusations against me and my wife that seek to topple the Likud and bring the left to power.”

Netanyahu criticized local media who jumped at the opportunity to ridicule Sara, just a month-and-a-half ahead of scheduled snap elections which will pit Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party against a united center-left front.

"All of this aims to detract attention from what is really important – who will lead the country," he wrote.

But Israeli media did seize the chance to make fun of Sara. A frequent target for left-leaning Haaretz, she is often portrayed as out of touch and extravagant.

In the wake of the revelation, Haaretz published a cartoon of her seated in her living room, watching the recent spat between Israel and Hezbollah on television, surrounded by empty bottles and ordering her staff to take the bottles to the supermarket.

In 2013, the Netanyahu couple returned $1,000 from used bottles to the state, according to a spokesperson for the prime minister’s office. However, Meni Naftali, a former manager for the prime minister’s residence, alleges in a lawsuit for wrongful treatment that the actual sum was much higher.

He claims that Sara made around $6,000 over the course of four years during her husband’s first term in office.

“She would collect the bottles obsessively,” Naftali told Yedioth Ahronoth daily, in an interview published on Friday. "'Here’s a bottle, here’s another bottle.'"

Haaretz reported that the matter has been turned over to the Attorney General’s Office.