The attorney general is willing to sign a plea bargain with Benjamin Netanyahu if it keeps the former prime minister out of public service for seven years with a designation of moral turpitude, political sources say.
According to the sources, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said this to Netanyahu’s lawyer as part of the negotiations for a plea deal that have been underway in recent weeks.
Netanyahu was the one who initiated the talks for a plea bargain between his lawyer Boaz Ben Zur and the state prosecution. Netanyahu’s advisers see the approaching end of Mendelblit’s term as an opportunity for a deal. The public interest to put an end to the case also came up in the talks, the sources said.
According to the sources, Netanyahu said he was willing in principle to confess to breach of trust in the so-called lavish-gifts case and the Bezeq-Walla case in which positive news coverage was allegedly exchanged for regulatory favors.
This would come in exchange for closing the bribery case against Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, who allegedly discussed with Netanyahu another possible favors-for-positive-coverage deal. Also, the bribery clause in the Bezeq-Walla case would be dropped.
So far, however, the parties disagree on the details, the sources said.
Mendelblit has conditioned a plea deal on requesting the Jerusalem District Court to rule that Netanyahu’s conduct was tainted by moral turpitude; he would therefore be banned from the public service for seven years, as stipulated by Israeli law.
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Netanyahu, however, wants a deal that would let him remain in politics. Mendelblit objects to this.
Netanyahu wants it agreed that he will retire only at the end of the legal process, that is, after the verdict that follows the submitting of a plea bargain.
The prosecutors fear that if Netanyahu breaks this promise, once the verdict is handed down, they will have no means to oust him from the Knesset. Thus the prosecution is insisting on moral turpitude.
The talks on the plea bargain would be divided into two stages. The first stage would consist of Netanyahu’s agreement to Mendelblit’s conditions. The second stage would be held between Ben Zur and the prosecution.
The prosecution team would examine the amended indictment that the sides agree on, to ensure that it can continue to conduct the trial against Shaul Elovitch in the Bezeq-Walla case and against Mozes in the bribery case.