Netanyahu could avoid prison sentence in exchange for quitting politics – report

Attorney General mulls freezing Netanyahu’s ongoing trials in bid to reboot talks for plea bargain.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The attorney general is deciding whether to go for mediation that would stop the ongoing corruption trials against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 12 reported Friday.

The deal, said political reporter Guy Peleg, is similar to another proposal offered from the start of the investigations against Netanyahu in late 2016.

It has been repeated since, such as when the indictments were formally issued three years later: Netanyahu would admit to the charges of fraud and breach of trust and have to retire from public life immediately, while the most serious charge, that of bribery, would be dropped, and he would not have to serve any time in jail.

“There will be no other kind of deal,” Peleg said.

The difference between mediation and a plea bargain is that the court is bound by the mediation agreement, which is negotiated by a justice who is unconnected to the cases. While judges overwhelmingly go along with plea deals struck between prosecutors and defense attorneys, they are not legally bound to do so, making it a more risky proposition.

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Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected the concept in public, although others have said that he had at times been privately prepared to accept a deal.

Peleg made it clear that Netanyahu himself has not decided yet whether he would be open to the mediation procedure, which has also been suggested in the past but did not work out.

Investigative program Uvda revealed five weeks ago that the idea had been raised during closed-door meetings when all the judges and lawyers were dealing with the acceptability of certain materials in the trials. Jacque Chen, the lead defense attorney for Bezeq and Walla owner Shaul Elovitch, who is being charged with bribery for allegedly offering positive news coverage of Netanyahu in exchange for regulatory favors that netted him hundreds of millions of shekels, made the suggestion.

Oded Shaham, one of the three sitting judges in the cases, asked the state to consider the proposal.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara has to formulate the government’s formal legal opinion on the matter and give her answer to the court. Netanyahu’s attorneys have not rejected the idea out of hand, saying they would study the proposition once it has been made.

The whole process would probably prevent the continuation of the combined trials for several months, Peleg said.

These began almost exactly three years ago, and the prime minister’s defense team has managed to poke holes in several of the most important prosecution witnesses’ testimonies. However, many damaging statements have still been made and there is a long way to go, even if the two sides agreed a few months ago to reduce the number of witnesses significantly to speed up the trials.

Peleg added his own opinion that if Netanyahu does agree to a deal, “the amended indictment will be drafted in such a manner that will enable Netanyahu to say in interviews in his sly way that ‘for such minor things, they pursued me for such a long time.’”