AG, Netanyahu attorneys talk road to plea deal

PM's defense team says willing to end proceedings in the corruption trial underway for 3 years, although Baharav-Miara has yet to express an opinion; pending testimony from former close aid turned state witness could prove embarrassing
Tova Zimuki|
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's defense team to discuss a possible plea deal, Ynet learned on Thursday.
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The meeting took place following the court's proposal to examine the possibility of mediation and after similar discussions were only held in the matter of Netanyahu's co-defendant communication mogul Shaul Elovitch who was charged with bribing the prime minister.
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בנימין נתניהו וגלי בהרב מיארה
בנימין נתניהו וגלי בהרב מיארה
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(Photo: AP, GPO)
Netanyahu was charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate scandals. He denies wrongdoing and accused the former AG, the prosecution and the police of bringing forth trumped-up charges in an effort to unseat a democratically elected leader from the right.
The corruption charges have been at the center of a protracted political crisis that sent Israelis to the polls five times in less than four years — each vote essentially a referendum on Netanyahu’s fitness to rule. After losing power in 2021 to a coalition of opponents, Netanyahu returned as prime minister late last year, despite his legal problems. Under Israeli law, the prime minister has no obligation to step aside while on trial.
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בנימין נתניהו בית משפט המחוזי ירושלים
בנימין נתניהו בית משפט המחוזי ירושלים
Benjamin Netanyahu at the beginning of his corruption trial in Jerusalem in May 2020
(Photo: Contact)
The evidence stage in Netanyahu's trial began in April 2021 and just 40 out of the 300 witnesses for the prosecution, have taken the stand. In the next few weeks, the prosecution is set to call high-profile witnesses, including current Opposition Leader, Yair Lapid, Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, as well as a former Netanyahu chief of staff-turned-state witness, Ari Harow. Those testimonies could further embarrass the prime minister.
A judge involved in the criminal trials recommended that the parties attempt non-binding mediation in order to reach an agreement on a plea deal. According to reports, Netanyahu's lawyers attempted to persuade the AG to support this process, which would speed up the lengthy trial, but she has not yet expressed her opinion on the matter.
Officials close to Netanyahu said that the court had recommended to the prosecution to reach a settlement in light of the developments in the case. "The prime minister's prosecutors said they do not oppose this and their position has not changed," his legal team said.
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בנימין נתניהו
בנימין נתניהו
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(Photo: Yair Sagi)
In January of last year, Netanyahu met with his lawyers for urgent consultations on the arrangement of a plea deal. Netanyahu's associates said then that there were gaps in the negotiations with the attorney general at the time, Avichai Mandelblit, but they expressed optimism that those would be bridged.
The contentious plan to overhaul the judiciary also weighs heavily over Netanyahu’s future, said Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank.
The plan has been paused for a time, after ferocious public pressure. But if and when it moves ahead, Netanyahu could remove the current attorney general and install one amenable to throwing out the charges against him. He also could gain influence in appointing the judges who would hear any future appeal. In that way, he could evade conviction or have his trial canceled outright.
On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of supporters of his government, rallied in Jerusalem to call for the coalition to pass their legislation and limit the power of the courts. Supreme Court justices were the target of the crowd's ire as Justice Minister Yariv Levin accused them of siding with Palestinian terrorists over Israeli soldiers. Pictures of current and past justices were laid on the ground and rally-goers walked over them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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