Netanyahu Pours Cold Water on Plea Deal, Rejects Moral Turpitude Demand

Netanyahu’s announcement comes after his lawyers received a message from AG Mendelblit that negotiations with him would not be possible and that they would have to wait for the appointment of his successor

Netanyahu, right, with his lawyers in Tel Aviv last week.
Former Prime Minister Netanyahu, right, with his lawyers in Tel Aviv last week. Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured his supporters on Monday that he would continue leading the Likud party, and vehemently denied that he had agreed to accept a finding of moral turpitude as part of a plea bargain, amid reports of a possible plea agreement with the State Prosecutor’s office.

The former prime minister is on trial in Jerusalem District Court on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

"Citizens of Israel, in recent days, you've proven once again that I'm not alone and that millions of you are with me. You've deeply moved me. I'll keep leading Likud and the national camp. The entire public sees what's happening in court and how the investigation against me was led. That should have been enough to close the cases against me now, but it still hasn't happened," Netanyahu said in a video distributed to the media.

“In recent days, false claims have been reported in the media about things that I have purportedly agreed to, for example the claim that I agreed to moral turpitude. It’s simply untrue,” Netanyahu said.

Last week, a senior official in the State Prosecutor’s Office said that no plea deal would be made in Netanyahu’s corruption cases without him admitting to crimes of moral turpitude.

In the first public statement by any official in his office on the plea deal with Netanyahu, Deputy State Prosecutor Shlomi Lemberger said, “It is inconceivable that such an indictment [filed alongside the plea bargain], even after being reduced, not include moral turpitude.”

If convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, Netanyahu would not be allowed to run for office for seven years.

Mendelblit met last week with leading prosecutors, who slammed the plea bargain being drafted, which would have dropped the fraud and bribery clauses.

Haaretz reported that Mendelblit had intended to insist that Netanyahu confess as part of the agreement to the core indictment in the Walla-Bezeq case, in which he is accused of receiving perks and benefits from former Bezeq controlling shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, and giving instructions to provide him favors in return.

Sources close to Netanyahu and Mendelblit predicted that negotiations would have to continue with Mendelblit’s permanent successor, once one is appointed. Sources in the State Prosecutor’s Office said that negotiations would not be held with his temporary successor, current State Prosecutor Amit Aisman.

Mendelblit is due to step down at the end of the month.

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