Barak said to believe deal would help 'heal the nation'

Former Supreme Court chief says Netanyahu asked him to raise plea deal with AG

Aharon Barak confirms earlier reports that figures close to the former premier convinced him to speak with Avichai Mandelblit; he stresses deal must include ‘moral turpitude’

Former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak speaks at the funeral service for late former chief justice Meir Shamgar at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on October 22, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak speaks at the funeral service for late former chief justice Meir Shamgar at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on October 22, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak acknowledged Saturday that opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu had asked him to speak with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit about the possibility of reaching a plea deal in the former premier’s graft trial.

“I won’t deny that when I reached out to Mandelblit, Benjamin Netanyahu’s contribution to the country was always on my mind. He was one of the greatest defenders of the Israeli justice system, until his trial,” Barak told the Ynet news site.

Barak said that in recent months, senior figures in Netanyahu’s Likud party asked him to initiate talks with Mandelblit.

“I asked them if Netanyahu sent them, they denied it,” he said. “I recently received a personal appeal from Netanyahu, and I decided not to remain indifferent.”

According to Channel 12 news, Barak had refused to speak to Mandelblit on Netanyahu’s behalf so long as the appeal did not come from the former premier himself.

Barak stressed that any plea deal must include a clause that Netanyahu will be convicted of “moral turpitude” — a legal designation which would bar him from public office for seven years.

According to the Walla news site, Netanyahu reached out to Barak at least three times via emissaries since 2019, to convince him to speak with Mandelblit regarding his corruption cases.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a Likud party meeting at the Knesset, on December 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The most recent attempt occurred several weeks ago, when Netanyahu sent attorney Michael Ravilo to convince Barak, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

Channel 12 news on Saturday night cited supposed statements by Barak, in which he said Netanyahu’s trial was “a special case that requires a [plea] deal, for the sake of healing the rifts in the nation and reducing the level of pressure on the justice system.”

“I will publicly support the [plea] deal when it is signed,” he was quoted by the network as saying.

According to multiple television reports over the weekend citing unnamed sources, talks on a potential plea deal in the former prime minister’s criminal trial have made significant progress, and the state prosecution believes the ex-Israeli leader will sign such a deal within days.

Top officials assess Netanyahu has decided to go for a deal, and that an agreement could be finalized as early as next week, reports claimed.

Channel 12 noted that Mandelblit strongly distrusts Netanyahu, and has rejected proposals by the latter’s attorneys to start exchanging texts of an amended charge sheet for a deal.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu, he insists, must first accept as a basic condition the framework of the deal: that he will be convicted of fraud and breach of trust; that he will remain an MK until the court determines his punishment and sentences him to 3-6 months in jail that will be commuted to community service; and that he will agree that his actions will be designated as carrying “moral turpitude” — barring him from public service for seven years.

Only after the premier fully agrees to this can the sides begin hashing out the nuts and bolts of the deal.

On Saturday, Channel 13 reported that a compromise may have been found, whereby the sides would agree that the trial judges at the Jerusalem District Court will rule on whether the former Israeli leader’s actions deserve such a designation — with Mandelblit reasoning that it is virtually certain that the judges would impose the “moral turpitude” designation if Netanyahu admits to offenses of fraud and breach of trust.

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