Benjamin Netanyahu is negotiating possible corruption case to secure political career, sources say

Although his condemnations of the case reflected words often heard from his once close ally Donald Trump, Netanyahu now deviates from the methods of the former US president.

Netanyahu and his team have discussed a possible appeal deal with prosecutors in his corruption case, two sources close to the case tell CNN.

If the negotiations are fruitful, according to the sources, they could be concluded within the next few weeks and will bring a surprising end to a years-long drama. Depending on the details of a possible prosecution agreement, Netanyahu could abandon policy for the next seven years.

Here’s what you need to know.

The charges

Netanyahu is accused three separate cases.

In case 1000, he is charged with fraud and breach of trust in connection with accusations that he received gifts such as cigars and champagne from overseas businessmen.

In the 2000 case, he is also accused of fraud and breach of trust and is accused of seeking favorable coverage in one of Israel’s top newspapers in return for limiting the spread of one of the newspaper’s main rivals.

In the most serious case, Sag 4000, he is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for allegedly promoting regulatory benefits worth more than $ 250 million at the time to his friend Shaul Elovitch, who was the controlling shareholder of the telecommunications company Bezeq. In return, prosecutors say, Elovitch secured positive coverage of the prime minister on an online news site he owned called Walla! News. Elovitch has denied the allegations.
The trial began in May 2020 at the Jerusalem District Court and is in the midst of questioning witnesses for the prosecution.

Moral unrest

The possible appeal agreement is likely to lead to the most serious charge of bribery being dropped altogether, another charge of fraud and breach of trust being diluted (in case 1000), and one of the three cases being dropped completely (case 2000), according to information provided of the sources close to the negotiations.

But sources say a central point of disagreement is over the length of community service Netanyahu would receive for pleading guilty to the remaining charges, and whether this verdict carries with it a stain of moral dismay.

Netanyahu's reign is over for now.  He leaves a richer, more divided Israel and a stopped peace process

If the sentence is longer than three months, then prosecutors can insist on including moral modesty, which would exclude the 72-year-old Netanyahu from politics for seven years under Israeli law.

Even if prosecutors choose not to include the moral rejection label, a future Electoral Commission judge can still rule Netanyahu’s convictions and verdict exclude him from politics for the same seven-year term.

It is different if the sentence is shorter than three months. In this situation, there is a loophole under Israeli law. If Netanyahu faces his punishment as a private citizen, which he could ensure by resigning from his seat in parliament, the issue of moral dismay would not be taken into account.

Why now?

The report on the possible appeals agreement comes just weeks before Justice Minister Avichai Mandelblit is set to end his term on 31 January.

Mandelblit was responsible for issuing the charges against Netanyahu, after lengthy police investigations, and is largely considered to want to end his time in office with a successful verdict.

The next public prosecutor will be appointed by the new government, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and may be much less likely to offer Netanyahu such a grievance deal.

But critics – including hundreds of protesters who gathered outside Mandelblit’s home on Saturday night – are pushing back against the deal. To them, anything less than a complete trial and verdict bearing the mark of moral foolishness would be considered a failure given the seriousness of bringing cases against a functioning prime minister.

Political echoes

Although at first glance it may seem as if Netanyahu’s political opponents would be happy to see him take a plea deal in disgrace and leave the political arena, some Israeli analysts say such a move could shake the stability of the current government.

The new government, led by former Netanyahu chief of staff Bennett, is a conglomeration of political parties ranging from right-wing extremist parties like Bennett’s to the left. It also includes the first Arab party to sit in the government of Israel.

The glue that has bound these parties reflects a common desire to end Netanyahu’s time as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. And as long as he has remained in frontline politics – as leader of the opposition – it has held up well.

But if he were to leave the stage, it could open the door to a new coalition made up solely of right-wing and religious parties that could overthrow the current unity government.

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