UPDATE ON NETANYAHU’S CRIMINAL CHARGES

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January 15, 2022

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.

UPDATE ON NETANYAHU’S CRIMINAL CHARGES

Followers of Israeli politics know former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was a wheeler-dealer, flip-flop artist, with a moral compass like a piece of Swiss cheese. Since being knocked out of office, he has been contending with legal charges. Here’s the latest.

The former PM wants to stay out of jail. The departing AG wants to secure a conviction. Both sides agree on that. But there’s one crucial issue that’s dividing them.

In the two years since he was indicted in three corruption cases, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been publicly adamant that he would neither seek nor accept a plea bargain. Several weeks ago, however, according to unconfirmed reports over the last few days, one of his lawyers, Boaz Ben Zur, approached Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to begin discussions on precisely such a deal. According to the thrust of the numerous, sometimes contradictory, and often confusing reports that have emerged this week on the two sides’ subsequent interactions, Mandelblit responded with a “framework” for a possible plea bargain.

The state prosecution would remove the most serious of the charges against Netanyahu, that of bribery in Case 4000 — the case in which he is alleged to have worked to illicitly and lucratively benefit the business interests of the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq media company, in exchange for positive coverage on the Walla news site.

The state prosecution would also close Case 2000, in which Netanyahu allegedly negotiated, but never implemented, an illicit quid pro quo deal with the  newspaper publisher that would have seen the former prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

In return, Netanyahu would plead guilty to fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000, and likewise to fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000, in which he is alleged to have illicitly received benefits and expensive gifts from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Netanyahu, according to this reported plea bargain framework advanced by Mandelblit, would not go to prison for these offenses, but would rather serve something in the order of six months’ community service. Crucially, however, Mandelblit reportedly also emphasized that Netanyahu would have to accept that his crimes constituted “moral turpitude” — a designation that would see him barred from public office for seven years. Mandelblit made plain that unless Netanyahu was prepared to accept this, there was no point in their negotiating. TV reports on Thursday night suggested the “turpitude” issue is now the only element preventing the sealing of a plea bargain.

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Filed under Elections, History, Netanyahu

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