Three years after the filing of four indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and with the trial still not at the halfway mark, News 12’s Ilana Dayan reported Thursday night that the parties are considering going to criminal mediation. For this to happen, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara needs to formulate the state’s position and inform the Jerusalem District Court in the coming days. Netanyahu’s attorneys did not rule out the idea and announced that they would submit their answer at the same time as the prosecution.
It should be noted that mediation, civil or criminal, most often takes place before a court trial begins, in an attempt to avoid going to trial altogether. In that sense, criminal mediation is about the same as a plea bargain, except that it does not involve deliberation of the evidence. Instead, it is a pure negotiation between the two sides regarding how far they are willing to go to meet each other.
To stop the trial more than two years into the hearings is extremely rare and suggests weakness on the part of the prosecution and a growing frustration of the panel of judges.
As things are proceeding, with many prosecution witnesses practically becoming de facto witnesses for the defense, and with an abundance of revelations of police malfeasance that include illegal use of the spy program Pegasus while possibly misleading the judges who approved it, this is not turning out to be a fun event for the state prosecutors.
But on Thursday, the same state prosecution lost whatever prestige it still had when a panel of three judges acquitted Roman Zadorov who was imprisoned for 16 years for what the judges described as a complete failure, possibly involving witness tampering, holding back evidence from the defense, and borderline-illegal behavior.
Should the Jerusalem District Court acquit Netanyahu, it would make the Zadorov failure look like a glitch. And if the court is favoring mediation at this late stage of the game, it’s conceivable that at least one judge has been contemplating an acquittal.
Even if Netanyahu is found guilty of some of the accusations against him, at the rate his trial is going, it won’t end before 2026 at the earliest; and then Netanyahu would appeal, so that the final verdict in these four cases would not be issued before 2028 or 2029. Netanyahu will be 80 years old and so it’s doubtful he would receive prison time. In addition, he and his lawyers will also litigate the disgrace clause and whether or not it applies in whatever portion of the indictments the court rules against him. It would make so much more sense to drop the whole thing.
The chances for mediation are not great: AG Baharav-Miara has no incentive to interrupt the trial that provides the opposition with most of its firepower against Netanyahu, and as you may recall, this AG was appointed by former Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who hates Netanyahu more than even Avigdor Liberman does, and that says a lot. Netanyahu, for his part, has no incentive to compromise when things are looking pretty good for him. The only compromise that would work for him would involve dropping the charges against him.
But if things continue to look this bad for the prosecution, and in light of their devastating loss of prestige in the Zadorov decision, they may be amenable to “creative solutions,” such as dropping the charges against Netanyahu in exchange for the PM’s agreement not to seek reelection at the end of his current term, which could come in late 2026. Bibi will be 77 and possibly ready to retire anyway, especially if he no longer faces the criminal charges that were part of his desperate race to take back the government last November.
Before his indictments, Netanyahu declared repeatedly: “There won’t be anything because there isn’t anything.” Well, there were lots of things, but in the end, yes, maybe there won’t be anything after all.