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Moral Turpitude: Who, and What Killed Netanyahu’s Plea Deal?

jewishjournal.com

As I write this column, it seems clear that Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the plea deal with Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who’s about to retire at the end of this month. It is also clear that the deal was rejected because of the ‘Moral Turpitude’ clause, which stipulated that Netanyahu was to admit to it, and as a result will resign from his membership in the Knesset, from leading the Likud party, and retire too from the political arena for seven years. But why? It was so close?

Some reporters ‘in the know’ reported that it was ultimately Sara Netanyahu, his wife, who’d put the kibosh on that deal. That Netanyahu had committed a ‘Moral Turpitude’ while in office as Prime Minister for so many years was not in doubt. That’s what surely happens when you accumulate that much power, for so long a time, and begin to see yourself as the incarnation of ‘King David,’ urged on by a conniving wife, and a right-wing extremist son. You are becoming all-powerful, and all-power is essentially corrupt. To admit to ‘Moral Turpitude,’ however, and worse to recuse yourself from political life—while you are still, and by far, the most popular leader in Israel—is another matter altogether.

Let’s remind ourselves briefly what, as indeed I was writing about here a number of times before, Netanyahu is accused of: Fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Not small a change. Which he denies, of course, of ever having or committed. He has accused AG Mendelblit, the Police and prosecutors of corruption and all kind of other accusations. But against all odds and many delays, his trial has commenced and continued unabated. It so happened because in three consecutive elections Netanyahu had failed to form a majority government, and thereafter kill the trial. In the government he was finally able to form, with Blue and White’s Gantz, he was forced to accept that the trial will go on.

Again, as predicted in this blog not once (based on minimal legalistic knowledge), the trial not only materialized but has proved much more problematic, and potentially damaging to Netanyahu than he and his fervent supporters had thought possible. A number of witnesses had produced damaging evidence, causing shaking and headaches for Netanyahu’s defense. So much so that it was Netanyahu himself who began hearing the squeaking iron gates of jail being open, welcoming him in. As a result, he turned to former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, probably the most respected Judge still in the land, to facilitate the plead deal.

So Barak turned to Mendelblit, who began the process. It was reported also that during that process, he had offered Netanyahu initially only two years’ absence from political life, which was much easier for Netanyahu to accept. However, prosecutors and legal minds involved had raised hell about it. And rightly so. With all due respect to AG Mendelblit and all that he has done to bring the trial forward, it is well worth remembering that he has served in Netanyahu‘s government, and was regarded as a close confidant for a time, if not a friend. So The “Moral Turpitude’ clause became seven years. As you know, seven years is a very symbolic, significant number in the bible and Jewish tradition and history.

For a while, as has been reported in the Israeli media, the odds in favor of such a plea deal becoming a reality were very high. “In a few days.” “Early next week.” So screamed the headlines. And I have to admit that, unlike the plurality of Israelis, as a number of polls have suggested, I felt that I would welcome such a deal. As a staunch objector to Netanyahu and all that he has represented, from instigating Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, squashing any chances of the two-state solution from becoming a reality, the continuation of the settlement endeavor, and his bro hugging of the pitiful, despotic Trump, I still saw his potential removal from Israel’s political life as more important than seeing him go to jail.

Furthermore: The government just approved an inquiry into Germany’s ‘Submarine Affair,’ in which Netanyahu can be in real ‘troubled water.’ It might generate more opportunities to put him behind closed bars. There are of course Netanyahu’s supporters, and some legal minds, who don’t see it this way, and believe the prosecution is on shaky ground. Come what may, the possibility of Netanyahu going to jail certainly exists. He knows that. But he also knows that unlike other cases in recent Israeli history—President Katsav, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert—if he is convicted and about to be locked up, it will create havoc. His supporters will raise hell, and the possibility of blood in the streets, a semi civil-war, is likely. Which, I believe, Netanyahu would welcome, both personally and politically.

And so, what killed the deal at the end was indeed the ‘Moral Turpitude’ clause, and not his wife’s orders, even if that was part of it.  Specifically, the retirement from political life for seven years, and not so much the partial admittance of guilt on his part. Like his American bro, Trump—who can also hear the gates of the legal system finally beginning to close on him—the one thing he couldn’t stand was the loss of power. Dictators need the power to sustain their wellbeing. Crimes are no big deal for them; they commit them all the time. Being out of power, however, is akin to death.

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