Netanyahu Brought in ex-Supreme Court President to Broker Plea Deal

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak calls Netanyahu 'one of the great defenders of the justice system' ■ Former PM, lawyers back settlement, Netanyahu family divided

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
Netanyahu in court, last year.
Netanyahu in court, last year.Credit: ראובן קסטרו
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recruited former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak to mediate between him and the attorney general in an attempt to advance a plea deal in his trial, the news site Walla reported on Saturday.

In an interview to Ynet, Barak confirmed that he acceded to Netanyahu’s appeal and mediated between him and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. “I couldn’t remain indifferent,” said Barak, “Netanyahu was one of the great defenders of the justice system.”

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, in November.Credit: Fadi Amun

According to the Walla report, Netanyahu had asked attorney Michael Rabilo to approach Barak back in 2019. Rabilo turned to economist Joseph Ciechanover for help on the matter, but nothing was acted on then. The report adds that in 2020, shortly prior to the date Netanyahu was indicted, Rabilo approached Barak directly. He was told to ask Netanyahu’s defense counsel to contact the former chief justice. The move did not come to fruition at the time because Netanyahu did not send his attorney to meet with Barak.

“This is a special charge and a special trial, which are causing a rift among the people,” said Barak, explaining his decision to support a plea deal over continued legal proceedings. “In an attempt to heal this rift, one can justify the second approach which I support, to prefer a plea deal. This is the positive and essential position for the state,” stressed Barak.

“I cannot deny that when I approached Mendelblit I continually thought of Benjamin Netanyahu’s contributions to the country – not only his great achievements over the years but mostly, until his trial, he was one of the great defenders of the Israeli justice system. I shall never forget this contribution.”

Netanyahu’s defense attorneys, Ben Tzur and Amit Hadad, support a plea deal, as does Rabilo. A source familiar with the details told Haaretz that Hadad expressed his support for a plea deal even before the evidentiary phase of the trial began, but Hadad denies this claim.

According to Channel 12 News, Netanyahu and his attorneys support signing the plea deal at this point, but the former PM’s family is still split on the matter.

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. They claim that 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 admission of guilt would come in exchange for closing the bribery case against Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, who allegedly discussed with him 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 law. Netanyahu, however, wants a deal that would let him remain in politics. Mendelblit objects to this demand.

Netanyahu wants it agreed that he will retire only at the end of legal proceedings. 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 the 'moral turpitude' designation.

The talks on the plea bargain would be divided into two stages. The first would consist of Netanyahu’s agreement to Mendelblit’s conditions. The second 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.

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