Jan 26, 2022 - World

Netanyahu still interested in plea after talks collapse


Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still interested in a plea deal even after his negotiations with outgoing Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit broke down, two sources with direct knowledge of the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Netanyahu’s corruption trial is about to enter a critical phase with several key witnesses expected to appear in court in the coming weeks.

  • Netanyahu had hoped to reach a deal before Mandelblit left office at the end of January, but the attorney general has reportedly notified Netanyahu's lawyers that this won't be possible.
  • The deal they'd been discussing would have kept Netanyahu out of prison, but seen him banned from politics for seven years.
  • Earlier this week, Netanyahu broke his silence on the plea talks and said he'd never accepted the seven-year ban.

Behind the scenes: A source who spoke to Netanyahu in the last two weeks said the former prime minister really wants a deal.

  • According to the source, Netanyahu's state of mind has changed since he left the Prime Minister’s Office and in particular after his family vacation on billionaire Larry Ellison’s island in Hawaii last summer.
  • The source quoted Netanyahu as saying, "There is a life out there," and added that the former prime minister said he wants to write a book and make money.
  • Both sources said one major obstacle was opposition to a deal from Netanyahu’s wife Sara and his son Yair, whom the former prime minister had tried and failed to bring on board.

What’s next: Negotiations will likely continue under the next attorney general, who has yet to be named.

  • For now, Netanyahu is reasserting his standing inside the Likud party to head off the intra-party jockeying that had begun over his potential replacement.
  • He's also attacking Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's COVID policies after weeks of near silence while he was negotiating the plea deal.
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