Coalition Worries Netanyahu Plea Deal Could Bring Down Gov’t

YERUSHALAYIM -
Then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (L) and then-Cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at the Prime Minister’s Office in Yerushalayim, in 2014. (Flash90)

Reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit might offer Likud leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu a plea deal have caused a political uproar, with the coalition worried that the government might not be able to stay together if such a deal is signed.

Mandelblit is reportedly seeking to bar Netanyahu from the Knesset for seven years.

On Wednesday, Maariv reported that Netanyahu has been holding secret talks with prosecutors on a plea deal for the cases of alleged corruption currently ongoing against him, but has been unable to come to an agreement.

The newspaper, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation, revealed that the negotiations broke down after the ex-premier and current opposition leader refused to accept an admission of moral turpitude.

According to the report, Netanyahu entered the discussions with the mindset that Mandelblit wanted a “clean sheet” as he approaches retirement and would therefore work with him. However, Mandelblit – who is slated to retire on Feb. 1 – refused to budge from his demand for an admission of wrongdoing.

The State Attorney’s Office, in a statement, did not admit or deny that the talks had taken place.

“As a policy, we do not respond to questions about conversations with defense attorneys, whether they have occurred or not. This does not confirm or deny anything of what has been alleged,” a statement from the office read.

The coalition fears that if Netanyahu moves to the right, the government would have no interest in keeping up the current partnership with Meretz, Labor, and Ra’am, and will attempt to form a coalition based on right-wing parties.

“Netanyahu is the glue holding this government together,” one coalition official said Thursday. “The New Hope people who said ‘Anyone But Bibi’ will have a hard time explaining why, if Netanyahu leaves the game, they continue to sit with the left. The pressure on the Yamina members is very heavy, too.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that if Netanyahu leaves, the government could fall apart shortly thereafter. The moment Netanyahu leaves, it’s a new game. Everything will be open. Each political player will have a lot of possibilities,” the official said.

If Netanyahu leaves, the Likud has a clear path ahead of it. According to the party constitution, the Likud will have 21 days to elected a temporary leader. But the party will likely do so in much less time, possibly as few as 10 days. Once a temporary party leader has been chosen, the party has 90 days to hold a primary election. During those 90 days, the temporary leader could negotiate an alternative government.