Netanyahu was willing to plead guilty, former Supreme Court chief justice claims

Aharon Barak, former president of the Israeli Supreme Court, claims Netanyahu’s attorneys pushed for a plea bargain, under the assumption the prime minister would leave politics.

By World Israel News Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was prepared to plead guilty and to step away from politics as part of a plea bargain in his ongoing corruption trial, a former Supreme Court chief justice claimed over the weekend.

Aharon Barak, who served as president of the Israeli Supreme Court from 1995 to 2006, told Channel 12 Saturday that several years ago he “suddenly” received calls from Netanyahu’s defense team, urging him to broker plea bargain arrangement with then-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

“When we talked about the plea deal, what stood before my eyes was the people,” Barak said.

“This nation is divided on these issues, it is also divided on the issue of the prime minister, and we need to seek to bring about the reconciliation of the divisions in the nation, and everything I talked about concerning the plea deal at the time was for the sake of the union of the divisions in the nation.”

After the conversations between Barak and Netanyahu’s attorneys, negotiations were launched between Netanyahu’s defense team and Mandelblit.

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The possible plea bargain arrangement discussed would have dropped the most serious charge against Netanyahu – bribery – in exchange for a guilty plea on the lesser charges of breach of trust and fraud.

While it was assumed, Barak continued, that Netanyahu would leave politics, it would ultimately be left up to the court to determine whether Netanyahu’s conviction constituted moral turpitude that would bar him from serving in high office.

Barak said he was “dumbfounded that suddenly” Netanyahu “got cold feet and went back” on the plea bargain talks.

Sources close to Netanyahu cited in the report denied the prime minister had agreed to a plea bargain.

“Prime minister Netanyahu never agreed to plead guilty to fraud and breach of trust and if he had agreed to this, a plea deal would have been signed a long time ago and the trial would have ended. Every day that passes in the trial reveals the truth and illustrates why prime minister Netanyahu refused to admit to any crimes.”

The interview was published days after the Netanyahu government unveiled plans by Justice Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), a close ally of the prime minister, to reform the Israeli judiciary.

Among other things, the reform plan would enable the Knesset to veto rulings which strike down laws passed by the Knesset; curtail the influence unelected officials have in selecting new judges, and curbing the independence of government legal advisers.

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A long-time advocate of judicial activism, Aharon Barak expanded the Supreme Court’s role in shaping Israeli laws, declaring the Basic Laws to be Israel’s constitution, expanding the court’s right to overturn Knesset laws.

Barak castigated the government’s planned judicial reforms, calling for a “struggle” to prevent their passage.

“If no agreements are reached then a struggle must be waged, of course only within the framework of the law. But if there needs to be another demonstration in Balfour then there will be demonstrations in Balfour. We don’t have another country. We don’t have another land.”