Negotiations for a plea deal between former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the state prosecution have stalled, according to Tuesday reports.
Reports have swirled in recent days claiming Netanyahu was nearing a deal with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Many of the reports have been unsourced and contradictory.
There have been no formal confirmations of an emerging deal from either side and there are numerous obstacles that could slow or torpedo an agreement. So far, the main reported stumbling block to reaching a deal has been Mandelblit’s reported insistence on a “moral turpitude” clause, which would bar Netanyahu from political life for seven years.
Netanyahu is on trial 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.
Channel 13 reported Tuesday that Mandelblit and other top justice officials are waiting for an answer from Netanyahu about their requirement that he admit moral turpitude in a possible deal, which they view as essential.
Both Channels 12 and 13 reported that Mandelblit has cooled to the possibility of a plea deal, due to his term ending in two weeks and as a result of intense public backlash to the possibility of a deal.
Channel 13 said Netanyahu’s side thinks a deal could be made in a couple of days of intense negotiations.
The network said that while Mandelblit had briefly considered agreeing to let the trial judges rule on the moral turpitude clause, rather than it being an integral part of the deal, he has now rejected that option and demands Netanyahu agree to it in advance. Netanyahu has been reported to be wary of doing so in case the negotiations subsequently break down.
Meanwhile, the Tuesday night Channel 13 report said Netanyahu expects another meeting between the sides to discuss a possible deal and won’t clearly say if he will accept the turpitude designation.
An unnamed official in the prosecution told Channel 12 that the chances of the deal going through before Mandeblit steps down at the end of January were slim, because “every day that passes really diminishes the possibility of getting there.”
The official said talks had effectively stalled. “There is a chance, but it’s theoretical,” he said.
Kan news said there had been no progress on Tuesday in the negotiations, but associates of Netanyahu said the groundwork for a deal was in place, and talks could resume with Mandelblit’s successor as well.
According to reports in recent days, the details of a plea agreement that have already been agreed would include dropping the most serious charge against Netanyahu, for bribery in Case 4000, as well as the entire Case 2000, and seeing the defendant admit to fraud and breach of trust in the two remaining cases, 4000 and 1000.
The sides have reportedly agreed that Netanyahu will not see prison time, and would be sentenced to three to six months of community service.
Monday reports claimed Netanyahu had agreed to Mandelblit’s demand that a plea deal include the “turpitude” clause banning him from public office for seven years. Following the reports, Netanyahu’s spokesman released a statement that quoted his lawyers saying the former prime minister “has not announced he agrees to moral turpitude.”
Netanyahu himself appeared to downplay rumors that he had decided to sign a plea deal. “Guys, there’s nothing to update you on. If there’s something to update, I’ll update,” a statement quoted him as telling MKs in his Likud party.
Former state attorney Eran Shendar said Tuesday that a deal would be “really unworthy and unreasonable.” He said an agreement would harm the public and send a “terrible” message to politicians.
Netanyahu denies all allegations against him, and claims the charges were fabricated by a biased police force and state prosecution service, overseen by a weak attorney general, in league with political opponents and the leftist media.