Netanyahu Was in Plea Talks for Corruption Cases, Report Says

Negotiations were reportedly held over the past several weeks but ended because Netanyahu refused to include a jail term in the deal

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Benjamin Netanyahu with his lawyers in November in Jerusalem District Court.
Benjamin Netanyahu with his lawyers in November in Jerusalem District Court.Credit: Emil Salman
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in lengthy negotiations for a plea agreement in the criminal cases against him, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported Wednesday.

The talks ended because Netanyahu demanded the deal not include jail time or a finding of moral turpitude, according to the report by journalist Ben Caspit.

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The report explains that Netanyahu tried to come to an agreement prior to the end of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's term in office at the end of this month, on the assumption that Mendelblit would want to end his term with a “clean desk.”

However, Mendelblit conditioned the talks on an admission of guilt by the former prime minister and punishment that would include a suspended sentence, a substantial fine and a finding of moral turpitude. The talks proceeded for some time, but were halted over Netanyahu’s demand that his offenses not involve moral turpitude, let alone subject him to a prison sentence.

Netanyahu is on trial in three criminal corruption cases in Jerusalem's District Court. The Likud chairman is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the cases. One of them involves alleged efforts by Netanyahu to skew coverage at the Walla news website in exchange for regulatory concessions to the Bezeq telecommunications company, which owned Walla at the time.

In another case, Netanyahu is accused of accepting lavish gifts in return for favorable treatment; and in the third, he is charged with negotiating with the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily regarding news coverage in exchange for policy that would benefit the newspaper. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

The State Prosecutor’s Office said in response to the Maariv report that as a matter of policy, it does not respond to questions regarding talks with defense lawyers “whether or not there were any” and would neither confirm nor deny what was reported.

About two weeks ago, the court wrapped up 17 days of testimony by Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family, who turned state’s evidence in the case. Following his testimony against the former prime minister, Hefetz said testifying was “as difficult as parting the Red Sea.”

This week, one of the police investigators who interrogated Hefetz is on the stand.

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