Signing the plea bargain being discussed by opposition chair Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is contrary to the public interest and Israeli democracy. The Israeli public deserves to have Netanyahu’s trial continue to the end, and Israeli democracy deserves to have the issues raised in the trial – which relate to ethics and relations between politicians and the media – receive a proper, principled judicial ruling. Netanyahu’s claim that the cases against him were “fabricated” in an attempt to carry out a “coup” should also be addressed in full.
Due to a few wrong assumptions, former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak advised Mendelblit to sign the deal. One can only be astounded by these assumptions. First, the nation was divided not by Netanyahu’s trial, but by Netanyahu, through his unbridled incitement against law enforcement, his weakening of government institutions and his habit of inciting various social groups against each other. Previous prime ministers who were investigated by police and tried for corruption didn’t act that way, and there’s no justification for rewarding this dangerous behavior with leniency.
Nor is Netanyahu a great “savior of the legal system,” as Barak claimed, even if Barak was referring to the time before the current legal saga. In recent years, Netanyahu has sought to destroy the legal system, and the damage he has caused it outweighs the “protection” on which Barak based his claim. A plea bargain with Netanyahu won’t “heal the rifts” in society, as Barak thinks; rather, it will enable him to return to his evil ways and argue that “the prosecution capitulated,” “the cases collapsed” and he was driven from power over nothing.
If the prosecution thinks confessing his crimes as part of a plea bargain would pull the rug out from under Netanyahu’s repeated claim that “nothing” will come of the cases against him because “there was nothing,” it is utterly blind to reality. The results of signing the plea bargain would become evident the very next day, even if the deal includes a finding that these crimes involved moral turpitude.
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Mendelblit has already admitted that Netanyahu’s rule endangered Israeli democracy, adding that our democracy was saved only “by the grace of God.” But democracy has gatekeepers, and the attorney general is one of the most important of them. It’s not God’s job to save democracy; it’s part of the attorney general’s duties. He must shore up the rule of law, protect equality before the law and preserve the public’s trust in the institutions of government. Signing a plea bargain would undermine all of the above, weaken public trust in law enforcement and stain Mendelblit’s term of office with disgrace. Mendelblit must let the trial finish, allow all the arguments to be examined in court and let the court have its say.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.