According to Likud Chairman and Opposition Leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu, the rumors about his political demise have been premature. He posted a video on Facebook Monday night, accompanied with the clarification: “In recent days, wrong allegations have been made in the media about things I supposedly agreed to, such as the claim that I agreed to kalon-disgrace. This is simply not true.”
“I will continue to lead the Likud and the national camp in order to lead the State of Israel – on your behalf,” the former prime minister announced.
אזרחי ישראל היקרים והאהובים, בימים האחרונים הוכחתם שוב שאני לא צועד לבד, ושמיליונים מכם צועדים יחד איתי. ריגשתם אותי מאוד. אני אמשיך להוביל את הליכוד ואת המחנה הלאומי כדי להנהיג את מדינת ישראל – בשליחותכם! ???? pic.twitter.com/nBFNdVdh9g
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 24, 2022
According to Ben Caspit, the Maariv journalist who a few weeks ago broke the story about the brewing deal between Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, wrote Tuesday morning that Netanyahu’s announcement was not directed so much at the AG, the State Prosecution, or even the general public, but at the Likud MKs, “the little foxes breaking into the vineyard,” as he put it, paraphrasing The Song of Songs 2:15.
Regarding the deal, Caspit continued, “nothing is over. The affair continues. The lovers took a break to think about the future of their relationship, but it will resume. Will an arrangement be reached in the end? It is not clear. What is clear is that there will be no deal without the disgrace statement.”
Mati Tuchfeld, writing for the decidedly more pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom, suggested there were several reasons why not striking a deal was a good thing, most importantly that had a plea been signed, the message to public figures would have been that the system can defeat any one of them – as it did the most popular politician in the country.
“The Netanyahu trial will continue for a few more good years,” Tuchfeld argued. “Exit points for a plea deal will pop up later on. The current AG is invested in the case, and it would not be an exaggeration to state that his professional fate depends on him (Madelblit, who retires January 31, is a candidate for a Supreme Court nomination, but without a victory on the Netanyahu indictments his chances are not great – DI).”
According to Tuchfeld, “the next AG may be much less compelled to convict Netanyahu and more attentive to what’s happening in court, where the law enforcement system disintegrates almost daily, as revelations about wrongdoing, deceptive means of interrogation, and twisting the law have become routine (the reference is to the recent revelations about police unauthorized use of NSO’s Pegasus program – DI). In this sense, the trial better last as long as possible.”
Netanyahu’s latest post aims to deliver a message of his soaring popularity – which is not untrue. Despite his legal woes, many more Israelis tell pollsters that he is the best man for the job of prime minister, far more than the supporters of his biggest rival, Yair Lapid, and certainly way ahead of Naftali Bennett. “Dear and beloved citizens of Israel, in recent days you have proven once again that I am not walking alone, and that millions of you are walking with me. You moved me greatly,” the embattled leader wrote. “Your tremendous mobilization and support have warmed my heart and the hearts of my family members and it gives me more strength to continue to lead you and fight for our path, the truth, and justice.”
According to Ha’aretz, AG Mandelblit has in recent days informed Netanyahu’s defense attorneys that he would not be able to continue his negotiations with them on a plea deal and that they would have to wait for his successor.
Mandelblit conditioned the negotiations on Netanyahu’s confession of breach of trust in the 1000 and 4000 cases and punishment that would include probation, a significant fine, and the disgrace clause. In exchange, the AG offered to remove the charge of bribery from case 4000 and drop case 2000 entirely.
The talks stopped over Netanyahu’s demand that no disgrace be imposed on him, let alone a prison sentence. But one week ago, after a two-week hiatus, Netanyahu ordered his lawyers to resume talks with Mandelblit in an attempt to reach an understanding by the end of the latter’s term a week from now.
The state prosecutors, who had been kept out of the negotiations, finally met with the boss and complained about his soft dealing with the accused. Mind you, these attorneys will eventually be involved, directly or indirectly, in the decision to promote Mandelblit to the Supreme Court. So when they talked, the AG listened, and the next time he met with Bibi’s legal team his position became tougher and he clarified that under no circumstances would he be willing to give up the disgrace clause.
That, apparently, blew up the talks and moved Netanyahu to come up with his battle cry. For now.