Netanyahu Mulls Plea Bargain But What Will it Mean for Israel's Political Scene?

© REUTERS / Amir CohenFILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during the the 2016 Genesis Prize award-ceremony in Jerusalem, June 23, 2016.
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during the the 2016 Genesis Prize award-ceremony in Jerusalem, June 23, 2016. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.01.2022
According to reports, the former prime minister would evade a prison if a plea bargain ends up being reached. For now, the main friction revolves around the charge of moral turpitude, an official declaration that would bar the 72-year old leader from politics for the next seven years.
Israel's former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is close to reaching a plea bargain in his corruption trial, Israeli media outlets report.
According to that deal, Netanyahu would admit to two counts of breach of trust, which would result in a suspended prison sentence. It would also mean that he would be obliged to perform several months of community service.
The agreement could be reached as early as this week and local experts have already started to mull over the possible scenarios. Here are the main ones.

Scenario 1: Netanyahu rejects the plea bargain

The main apple of discord is a charge of moral turpitude. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt is reportedly pressing on having that formal declaration in. Netanyahu is vehemently against it, as it would mean he would be barred from Israel's political life for the next seven years, something that the 72-year old Likud leader is trying to avoid.
On Sunday, it was reported that Netanyahu's wife Sara as well as his two sons are rejecting the deal. His family is believed to have a big influence over the decisions of the former PM, and if these reports are accurate, the chances that the agreement will be reached are slim.
In the event of such a rejection, the trial of Netanyahu will continue and according to estimates it will take some six years to complete, primarily because there are 333 witnesses that need to testify. It will also cost the country millions of dollars.

Scenario 2: Netanyahu goes ahead with the deal under certain conditions

The former premier will try to insist to keep the charge of moral turpitude out. Apart from barring him from political life, a conviction on this clause would also take away some of his basic indulgences such as a private driver and a bodyguard. It would also mar his reputation and present him as somebody who admitted his guilt.
In such a case, Netanyahu would need to resign from his current post as the leader of Israel’s opposition. He would also need to depart from political life until the next round of elections, expected three years from now.
Israeli experts have already said that this scenario is highly unlikely. Israel's liberal circles are objecting to the possibility that Netanyahu could evade prison. Many elements in the political establishment are worried that the ex-premier would make a comeback in the next round of general polls and that his popularity would only grow with time.

Scenario 3: Netanyahu accepts the plea bargain without preconditions

As mentioned earlier, in such an event "King Bibi" is barred from any political life for the next seven years.
Once he vacates his seat as the leader of Likud, Israel's largest party, the battle for who will inherit this throne will kick off.
Several Likud politicians have already voiced their willingness to try their luck. They include the former health minister Yuli Edelstein, former transportation minister Yisrael Katz and the previous mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat.
To obtain the seat of the Likud chief, they would need to compete in the primaries, which would take place five months after the date of Netanyahu's resignation. Once the name of the new leader is confirmed, he will need to decide on the direction his party will be taking.
One of the options is to remain in the opposition and wait for the next round of elections. Another is to initiate a no-confidence vote in the current government, which is believed to be fragile due to the fact that it is comprised of parties with opposite ideologies.
There is a chance that the hawkish Likud party will be able to split the current coalition and "steal" its conservative parties such as Israel Beitenu, the New Hope and Yamina.
Reportedly, such talks are already under way, but experts doubt they will ripen into a deal, primarily because those who have jobs in the current government won't want to risk them. However, as the chasm between the left and the right grows wider on such issues as settlement activity, Jerusalem or the handling of terror, a crack in the ranks might still be a possibility.
For now, all options are on the table, and many Israelis are eager to see how this drama will end up playing out.
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