Lawyers for Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes have recently held discussions with prosecutors over a possible plea deal in connection with one of the cases in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s graft trial, the Haaretz daily reported Thursday.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of attempting to reach a quid pro quo with Mozes for positive media coverage in exchange for legislation weakening rival newspaper Israel Hayom. Mozes was charged with bribery while Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust in the case.
According to the Haaretz report, lawyers representing Mozes have held talks with the State Prosecutor’s Office on the matter of a potential plea deal, but have not reached an agreement.
The report said that prosecutors, as well as Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, are against reducing the charges against Mozes as this could “render meaningless” the indictment against the prime minister. The report said that it was possible that there could be a deal if Mozes agreed to still admit to the charge of bribery.
Prosecutors were said to believe that the reduction in charges could lead to the collapse of the case because the charges against Netanyahu hinge on the fact that the premier allegedly understood that he was being offered a bribe.
However, the Haaretz report said that despite the concerns, it was believed Mozes’ lawyers and prosecutors would be able to come to an agreement and that as a result, the publisher was likely to receive a lighter sentence than if he were to be found guilty.
According to the indictment, Netanyahu and Mozes “recognized that the one had the ability to promote the other’s interest” in the run-up to the 2015 elections and discussed such possibilities.
“According to suspicions, in your actions while performing your duties you have committed acts that amount to breach of trust, and have caused substantial harm to the integrity [of the position] and the public’s trust,” the indictment against the prime minister read.
Mandelblit noted in his comments when announcing the charges against the prime minister, that Netanyahu conducted “corrupt discussions” on a quid pro quo deal with Mozes.
And although he never concluded the deal, and thus was not being charged with bribery in this case, the attorney general said, Netanyahu strung Mozes along to try to secure beneficial coverage ahead of the then-imminent elections.
Neanyahu’s trial involves two other cases against him. In Case 1000, in which the premier is accused of accepting over NIS 700,000 ($200,000) in illicit gifts from the billionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer, Netanyahu is charged with fraud and breach of trust.
In Case 4000, regarded as the most serious of the three, Netanyahu was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. In that case, the premier is accused of granting regulatory favors to Shaul and Iris Elovitch, who controlled the Bezeq telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive media coverage in the Bezeq-owned news outlet, Walla — an arrangement that prosecutors have deemed also an illegal quid pro quo.