Prosecutors Furious Over Secret Netanyahu Plea Bargaining

YERUSHALAYIM -
Former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in February, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

Senior state prosecutors were said to be furious over the revelation that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had been secretly discussing a plea deal with former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

According to Channel 13 on Thursday night, they only learned of the negotiations from Mandelblit the day before, and are said to be bitterly opposed to the deal as described.

Some officials in the prosecution are against closing Case 2000 against Netanyahu, the network says, which has been reported as an element of the proposed deal. They are also insisting on a plea deal that includes an admission of moral turpitude, which would block him from seeking reelection, and community service for Netanyahu.

There were also political concerns. An unnamed senior official was quoted as saying that if a deal is signed, it will present “an immediate danger to the stability of the coalition,” for if Netanyahu agrees to quit politics, it would theoretically clear the way for some of the parties in the coalition—Yamina, New Hope, Blue and White—to form a new coalition with Likud under someone else’s leadership.

Earlier on Thursday, Channel 12 reported that state prosecutors were willing to massively reduce the charges against Netanyahu as the sides discuss a possible plea deal.

According to the network, the prosecution is willing to close one of the cases against Netanyahu — Case 2000 — in which he is accused of attempting to reach a quid pro quo with Yediot Acharonot publisher Arnon Mozes for positive media coverage.

They are also said willing to remove the bribery charge in Case 4000 — the most serious charge Netanyahu faces. In the case, he is alleged to have worked to illicitly and lucratively benefit the business interests of controlling shareholder of the Bezeq media company Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage on the Walla news site owned by Elovitch. And they are also reportedly willing to soften the charges in Case 1000 to remove allegations of fraud and leave only breach of trust charges.

Channel 12 reported that the gaps between the sides are very narrow, with the central question being Netanyahu’s future in politics — whether he will immediately quit the Knesset or do so after a verdict is given.

The report also said that it is a distinct possibility that a plea deal will be signed within days, before Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit leaves office, at the end of the month.