Amid reports that opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to Justice Minister Avichai Mandelblit’s demand that an appeal agreement in his criminal case include a clause banning him from public office, analysts warn that several other key issues could still torpedo the incipient appointment.
Netanyahu has been indicted in three separate graft cases: for fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and in Case 2000 and for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000.
So far, the biggest stumbling block to reaching an agreement has been the “moral rejection” clause, which would exclude Netanyahu from political life for seven years.
“Netanyahu decided to go for a deal and accept the public prosecutor’s bottom line,” an unnamed staffer told the former prime minister on Monday to Channel 12 News, citing the term “moral unrest”.
But even if it is agreed, there are further complications ahead, according to Channel 13’s legal analyst Baruch Kra, where the indictment must be completely rewritten.
According to reports in recent days, the details of a grievance deal that has already been agreed will include dropping the most serious charge against him, for bribery in case 4000, as well as the whole case 2000, and seeing Netanyahu admit fraud and breach of trust to the two remaining cases, 4000 and 1000. The parties have reportedly agreed that Netanyahu will not see the jail sentence and will be sentenced to three to six months of community service.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from two billionaires – Hollywood-based Israeli film mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian tycoon James Packer.
According to Kra, Netanyahu is asking to halve the amount of illegal gifts he is accused of taking, whereas the Attorney General is only willing to make minor adjustments so that in the end it does not appear to be a frivolous charge.
In addition, both sides must play a careful balancing act, where the plea agreement must eventually be approved by a judge. If the new charges remain too serious, the judge may not approve a community service sentence and insist on jail time. If the new charges are too lenient, however, the prosecution risks having the case dismissed. The crime and the punishment must fit.
The second battle revolved around Case 4000, the most serious against the former Prime Minister, in which he allegedly worked to illegally and lucratively benefit the business interests of the controlling shareholder of Bezeq media company Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage of the Walla news site, owned by Elovitch.
Here, Netanyahu wants a grievance agreement that will not incriminate Elovitch.
Mandelblit, however, insists that even if the most serious allegation of bribery is dropped, prosecutors will still reflect that Netanyahu had a conflict of interest when Elovitch asked him for help worth millions of shekels.
And finally, it is also unclear whether an agreement can be reached before Mandelblit’s term of office expires towards the end of the month, when sources close to Mandelblit and in the Public Prosecutor’s Office cast doubt on such a prospect. On Monday, Channel 13 said prosecutors remain in doubt that an agreement can be reached before Mandelblit resigns.
The news site Ynet reported late Monday that all senior officials in the public prosecutor’s office had met and concluded that it was unlikely that negotiations with Netanyahu could be concluded before Mandelblit leaves office and that the current public prosecutor Amit Aisman, who will act as public prosecutor. , will have to make the last call.
Aisman reportedly supports the deal; Channel 13, however, said Netanyahu believes he will get a better deal under Mandelblit.
According to Channel 13, although Netanyahu is ready to agree to “moral unrest”, he has not yet officially informed Mandelblit as he is not sure the justice minister is prepared for a complaints deal.
The network also said Mandelblit, senior prosecutors and Netanyahu’s legal team had met for hours Monday afternoon and evening about the potential prosecutor.
Following the reports, Netanyahu’s spokesman issued a statement quoting his lawyers, saying the former prime minister “has not announced that he agrees with the moral dismay.” Pundits noted the statement’s use of the word “notified” rather than a complete denial.
Netanyahu himself seemed to downplay the rumors that he had decided to sign a deal.
“Boys, there is nothing to update you on. If there is anything to update, I will update, ”he was quoted as saying in a statement to tell MKs in his Likud party.
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The reports followed a meeting that Netanyahu and his family held on Sunday with his lawyers to decide whether they would accept a complaints agreement.
Channel 12 reported on Monday that the aim of this meeting was to convince Netanyahu’s relatives to accept the decision he has already made, and those present said it was the best deal for the former prime minister that his lawyers could achieve.
“It’s a good deal to be accepted,” Netanyahu’s lawyer Boaz Ben Zur was quoted as saying by Channel 13, which promised to “fight for every detail” in an amended indictment.
The network also quoted Netanyahu’s wife Sara as expressing reservations about accepting a prayer agreement.
‘The prosecution is playing with us. They want to show everyone that Bibi is ready to admit crimes, and then they will drop the deal. Almond blit can not be trusted, “she said reportedly.
The report said others at the meeting called Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari, the lead prosecutor in Netanyahu’s case, a liar, saying she could not be trusted.
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu made his first public comments since reports surfaced that he had instructed his lawyers to continue negotiations on an appeal deal and thanked supporters who donated money as part of a crowdfunding effort to help cover the cost of his defense.
“Thank you to the many Israeli citizens for their tremendous support and wonderful love in recent days,” he tweeted. “The warmth of your hearts has touched my family and myself in a unique way.”
Netanyahu tweeted the statement along with a 2016 family photo of himself, his wife Sara and his two sons, Avner and Yair.
The fundraising campaign started by the former Prime Minister’s supporters has so far raised over 2.6 million NIS (about $ 835,000). It is unlikely that he would be able to accept the funds as acting legislator.
Netanyahu is one of Israel’s richest politicians, and Forbes reported in 2019 that he was worth NIS 50 million ($ 13.8 million).
Netanyahu denies all charges against him, saying the charges were made by a biased police force and state prosecutor, overseen by a weak justice minister, in association with political opponents and left-wing media.
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