Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday denied a television report that he was looking into the possibility of arranging a deal that would see him receive a pardon from President Reuven Rivlin in a series of corruption cases in which he faces charges if he agrees to step down as premier.
According to Channel 13 news, Netanyahu dispatched an envoy to the President’s Residence to see whether Rivlin would consider granting clemency to the prime minister if he left office and the political scene. The envoy was reportedly told this would depend on the legal opinion of Attorney Avichai Mandelblit, who plans to charge Netanyahu in three criminal investigations, pending a hearing set for early October.
“This is a transparent and false spin whose only purpose is to harm the right-wing coalition,” Netanyahu told the network in response.
He also reiterated his denial of reports Thursday that he was seeking a plea deal with prosecutors and said his lawyers would attend the pre-indictment hearing with Mandelblit on October 2-3 to present “crushing arguments” to demonstrate his innocence.
October 2 is also the final day by which Rivlin is set to task a chosen lawmaker with forming a new government following Tuesday’s elections. That vote saw Netanyahu suffer a major setback when he and his political allies came short of winning enough seats for a ruling coalition.
The Channel 13 report, which did not cite a source, said Netanyahu has extensively looked into the legal and media aspects of an arrangement with the president and held discrete discussions with at least one person on the matter. The prime minister was said to be pessimistic that Rivlin would agree to the proposal.
The television station reported that former Labor lawmaker and current Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog was also involved, but said it was unclear how. Herzog denied any involvement.
Netanyahu faces fraud and breach of trust charges in the three cases he is a suspect in, as well as bribery in one of them.
Quoting sources in the State Prosecutor’s Office, Channel 12 news reported Thursday that Netanyahu’s hearing would go ahead as scheduled despite the election results, which left no party with a clear path to forming a government.
Had Netanyahu won a clear majority, and been able to build a coalition, he would have been expected to seek immunity from prosecution via a Knesset vote. It was widely believed that he would then have sought legislation to prevent the Supreme Court from overturning any such Knesset decision. In the final days of the campaign, Netanyahu was evasive when asked whether he would indeed seek to limit the powers of the Supreme Court.
The hearing was originally scheduled for June; in May Mandelblit agreed to delay it by three months.
Netanyahu’s attorneys had asked the attorney general for a full-year delay, arguing that the scope of the documents was too large to review in three months. Mandelblit refused that request.
Netanyahu has strenuously denied all the allegations against him and claimed the investigations are part of a witch hunt by political rivals, the media, the police and state prosecutors to force him from office.