JERUSALEM (VINnews) — The possibility of a plea bargain agreement between former prime minister Netanyahu and the prosecution has caused significant political unrest in Israel. If Netanyahu will step down from the leadership of the Likud in return for signing a plea bargain arrangement which leaves him with public service but prevents him from holding political office, the current government will find it difficult to continue or complete its term.
The Bennett government is led by right-wing pragmatists who did not want to send the country to further elections but saw that a Netanyahu-led government was impossible. If Netanyahu makes way, these right-wing elements will find it increasingly difficult to continue cooperating with Meretz and Labor when they could easily form a full-fledged right-wing government with the Likud, the Chareidim and Religious Zionism.
In the Likud itself there is significant political activity as a number of putative successors to Netanyahu are already vying for the leadership. Current polls show that former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat is a heavy favorite to lead the Likud after Netanyahu. A poll taken Sunday also showed that Barkat would garner 29 mandates for the Likud, close to Netanyahu’s 33 and far more than Yisrael Katz (19) or Yuli Edelstein (20).
The plea bargain option has split the supporters of Netanyahu into two separate camps: One vocal camp has urged Netanyahu not to admit any guilt and to fight the charges to the end in order to expose the prosecution’s perfidy and initiate change in Israel’s prosecution system. These supporters have already raised 2 million NIS to help continue Netanyahu’s legal struggle.
The other camp believes that Netanyahu cannot hope to get a fair trial after the huge efforts expended in investigating and submitting the cases against him. The prosecution can always expect to succeed in proving breach of trust and therefore Netanyahu should reach a plea bargain which is also a personal victory for him as it removes all charges of bribery against him and leaves minor charges and no prison sentence.
Netanyahu himself is believed to favor the plea bargain, while his family are urging him to continue to prove his innocence in court. On Sunday night the family visited Netanyahu’s lawyer in Ramat Gan for a consultation on the matter. The decision is expected in the next few days before Attorney-General Mandelblit, who is allegedly offering the plea bargain agreement, steps down from his tenure.