JERUSALEM, Israel – Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering accepting a plea deal in his corruption trial, Israeli media report.
Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in three separate cases. He is accused of demanding gifts from businessmen over $250,000 and offering favorable government policies to media leaders in exchange for positive news coverage. Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a witch hunt.
The deal could push Netanyahu off out of politics for years and ignite a race for his successor to lead the Likud Party.
The Associated Press cited a person involved in the plea deal negotiations who said the agreement would drop the bribery and fraud charges and throw out one case entirely. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the details of the negotiations.
The source said several elements remain unresolved, namely the inclusion of the “moral turpitude” clause, which would ban Netanyahu from politics for up to seven years. They are also deliberating whether to make the former premier do community service as part of the deal.
The “moral turpitude” charge could hurt Netanyahu’s chances of becoming the prime minister of Israel again after his 12-year reign was upended last year by a new government made up of eight ideologically different political parties that have little in common except their opposition to Netanyahu. By the time the ban expires, Netanyahu would be nearly 80.
A potential plea deal could also spell trouble for the fragile government. With Netanyahu out of the picture, Israel could either head for new elections or a new government under Likud’s leadership. It would also set off a competition within Likud for who will be the next party leader.
Reports of the plea deal angered critics, who said it undermined the rule of law. Meanwhile, supporters of Netanyahu want him to reject the potential agreement and fight for his innocence in court.
Israel’s Channel 12 News reported that Netanyahu and his family met with his lawyers Sunday night to decide whether to take the deal. His wife, Sarah, and their two sons reportedly opposed the deal because it would usher Netanyahu out of politics for several years.
However, Netanyahu’s lawyers are in favor of the plea deal and are urging him to sign it, according to a report from Channel 13.