This week, the judges in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial delivered the parties an unexpected warning, stating that it would be challenging for the prosecution to prove the facts of corruption in Case 4000, citing the “complexity” of such an approach.
The judges reportedly told the attorneys to negotiate a plea deal in a closed-door meeting because “it was in the best interest of the State.”
In three corruption proceedings, Netanyahu has been accused of fraud, violation of trust, and taking bribes. According to one of them, known as Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of promoting rules worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Shaul Elovitch, owner of the Bezeq telecom company, in exchange for favorable publicity on its well-known Walla news website.
Although Netanyahu is facing the most severe charges—bribery, fraud, and breach of trust—in Case 4000, the judges’ statement may change the power dynamics between the parties and have an impact on any future settlement that may be reached as the trial, which started three years ago, drags on.
State prosecutors said on Friday that they would proceed with trying to convict despite the judges’ advice.
Attorneys Boaz Ben Zur and Jack Chen, who represent Netanyahu, released a statement on Saturday calling the prosecution’s position “hasty and outlandish” and requesting them to consider the judges’ viewpoint.
The judges are also pressuring the prosecution and the premier’s attorneys to start mediation on Case 1000, which involves accusations that Netanyahu illegally accepted gifts like cigars and champagne from two billionaires, Arnon Milchan, an Israeli Hollywood film producer, and James Packer, an Australian business magnate, according to a report on Channel 12 on Saturday night.
In compensation for claimed services, the prosecution alleges that Milchan handed Netanyahu luxury items worth around NIS 700,000 ($193,000), including cigars, champagne, and jewelry, between 2011 and 2016.
Netanyahu reportedly requested three bracelets for his wife Sara from Milchan and Packer, one of which was valued at $45,000, as well as designer handbags and apparel for her.
According to the Prime Minister’s defense, he was unaware that Milchan or Packer gave gifts to his wife.
The Netanyahu couple’s defense team will likely emphasize Milchan’s friendship with the Netanyahus and argue that the Hollywood tycoon routinely showered all of his pals with extravagant gifts.