Attorney general decides against mediation process in Netanyahu corruption trial

Gali Baharav-Miara tells PM’s defense team she won’t back move that would have seen judge try to bring about plea deal

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a legal conference in Haifa on January 12, 2023. (Shir Torem/ Flash90/ File)
File: Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a legal conference in Haifa on January 12, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara on Monday said she was uninterested in attempting a non-binding mediation process for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trial, after the move was floated as a potential course of action in recent months.

The prospect for potential mediation arose in March when one of the three judges in the trial asked the state prosecution and defense teams to consider mediation.

Baharav-Miara informed Netanyahu’s legal team on Monday that the process would not advance. Hebrew media outlets reported she was skeptical of the value of mediation.

Mediation is generally held before a serving judge (not one of the judges in the trial), who does not hear witnesses and does not restart the trial. Rather, the judge tries to work toward what amounts to a potential plea bargain. The process would have brought the legal proceedings to an end more quickly.

The premier faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed without evidence that the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, and law enforcement to push him from office.

Netanyahu’s trial began three years ago and, as things stand, the proceedings, including potential appeals, are seen as unlikely to end before 2028 or 2029.

File: Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in his trial at the Jerusalem District Court on May 17, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s lawyers reportedly met with Baharav-Miara in April to discuss potential mediation, seeking to convince her to back such a process.

According to unconfirmed reports of plea deal talks in late 2021 to early 2022 between Netanyahu’s lawyers and then-attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, the latter demanded then that any plea deal with Netanyahu include a clause of “moral turpitude” — which would bar him from public office for seven years. Some reports said that a period of just two years was also discussed in the plea bargain negotiations and that Mandelblit backtracked after temporarily agreeing to this. In addition, the reports at the time said that charges would be significantly lowered in two of the cases against the premier, and dismissed in the third. The talks, which lasted several weeks, took place while Netanyahu was not in office.

While the potential for such an agreement had much of the nation on the edge of its seat, the negotiations eventually fell apart shortly before Mandelblit left office and was replaced by Baharav-Miara.

In a statement following the collapse of those talks, Netanyahu said he would not agree to acknowledge “moral turpitude” as part of a potential plea bargain, and said he had no intention of leaving politics.

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