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Israel’s Netanyahu reportedly holding talks for plea deal in corruption cases

Deal awaits former PM's final approval and is predicted to go ahead before attorney general steps down by end of January
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah stand in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, 10 January 2022 (AFP)

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held secret talks with the state's attorney general to reach a plea deal in the corruption cases he is currently facing in court.

Hebrew media reported that although the details of the plea deal are not confirmed, the talks between Netanyahu and the office of Avichai Mandelblit, Israel's attorney general, have been going on for weeks.

The deal awaits Netanyahu's final approval, and is predicted to go ahead before Mandelblit leaves his post by the end of January. 

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It stipulates that Netanyahu must leave public life for seven years if he is found guilty of "moral vileness" by a court, potentially ending his political career.

The plea deal would see Mandelblit dropping the bribery charge in both Case 4,000 and Case 2,000. However, Netanyahu would still be tried in front of the court for fraud and breach of trust charges in both Case 4,000 and Case 1,000.

Israeli media reported that the 72-year-old former premier would still prefer a plea deal that would leave him as head of the Likud party, with the freedom to compete in any upcoming election.

However, under the deal currently on the table, it's unclear whether Netanyahu would resign from his post in the Knesset, where he is the head of the opposition, or remain until the term ends. 

Israeli media said that prosecutors, who were unaware of the deal and were dismayed when news broke of the secret talks with Netanyahu, will likely agree to a plea deal that would see Netanyahu do community service and admit to moral turpitude.

In January 2020, an Israeli court indicted him in three cases involving bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denied any wrongdoing, branded the charges against him a "witchhunt", and refused to accept any plea deal.

Last year, he was tried in Case 4,000, also known as the Bezeq-Walla affair.

Netanyahu, who headed the ministry of communication during his time as prime minister, is accused of receiving bribes in the form of favourable media coverage of him and his family, from Shaul Elovitch, ex-owner of telecommunications conglomerate Bezeq, which owns Walla news network. Elovitch is alleged to have received favours from communications regulators in return.