By Gabe Friedman
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors in his ongoing corruption cases that could bar him from politics for several years and further reshape Israel’s political landscape.
Although various Israeli media reports have swirled inconclusively for several days — including some that claim momentum for a deal is slowing — all allege that Netanyahu has laid the groundwork for a possible deal that would dismiss some of the charges against him while having him confess to “moral turpitude” in a series of corruption cases.
According to Israeli law, a moral turpitude conviction would see him banned from Israeli politics for at least seven years.
Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, is currently the leader of Israel’s opposition after being ousted from power last year. In 2020, he became the country’s first sitting prime minister to be indicted, for a series of cases involving bribery and inappropriate political gifts. In one, he allegedly sought to harm a leading Israeli newspaper in exchange for positive coverage in another.
The attorney general who indicted Netanyahu, Avichai Mandelblit, is retiring at the end of January, spurring some to speculate whether he wants to end his tenure with an explosive bang. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside of Mandelblit’s house on Saturday, urging him to dismiss a plea deal and work towards convicting Netanyahu on all accounts he is charged with.
In addition to shaking up his Likud party, Netanyahu’s potential plea deal could rattle the Israeli parliament’s coalition, which has been held together by a historically diverse set of parties by the slimmest of margins since last June. If one party is forced to reshuffle its leadership in turmoil, it could break down the coalition and trigger new elections.