Former High Court of Justice president Aharon Barak claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ready to agree to admit to the crimes of fraud and breach of trust in the cases against him in an interview with N12 on Saturday.
The interview came as Barak made a number of statements in recent days against judicial reform proposed by the new government.
N12 reporter Dana Weiss asked Barak if he attempted to reach a plea deal with Netanyahu in recent years because of concerns that the prime minister would act to pass judicial reform similar to the reform being proposed now by Justice Minister Yariv Levin.
Barak responded that "When we talked about the plea deal, what stood before my eyes was the people. This nation is divided on these issues, it is also divided on the issue of the prime minister, and we need to seek to bring about the reconciliation of the divisions in the nation, and everything I talked about concerning the plea deal at the time was for the sake of the union of the divisions in the nation."
The former High Court president recounted that he "suddenly" received calls from Netanyahu's lawyers who wanted to talk about a plea deal. Barak then called then attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit who agreed to the suggestion and negotiations began on a plea deal.
According to Barak, the deal was set to remove the crime of corruption from Netanyahu's charges, with the prime minister agreeing to admit to the crimes of fraud and breach of trust. The court would then decide whether the crime had moral turpitude - which would prevent Netanyahu from serving as a minister or prime minister - or not.
Barak added that the negotiations were conducted on the assumption that Netanyahu would leave politics.
"I was dumbfounded that suddenly... I think the prime minister got cold feet and went backward," said Barak to N12, adding that he believes that the reform proposed by Levin would never have been brought forward if a plea deal had been reached.
Barak concerned that Netanyahu appears to back Levin's reforms
The former High Court president additionally told N12 that it "worries me greatly that he appointed the justice minister because this appointment essentially says that he stands behind him." In past statements, Barak called Netanyahu "one of the greatest defenders of the Israeli justice system, until his trial."
“It worries me greatly that [Netanyahu] appointed the justice minister because this appointment essentially says that he stands behind him.”Former High Court of Justice president Aharon Barak
Barak called the decision to present the government's judicial reform right before a High Court hearing on Health and Interior Minister Arye Deri's eligibility to serve as a minister a "scandal."
The former High Court president added "If no agreements are reached then a struggle must be waged, of course only within the framework of the law. But if there needs to be another demonstration in Balfour then there will be demonstrations in Balfour. We don't have another country. We don't have another land."
Sources speaking on behalf of Netanyahu responded to the interview, stating "Prime minister Netanyahu never agreed to plead guilty to fraud and breach of trust and if he had agreed to this, a plea deal would have been signed a long time ago and the trial would have ended. Every day that passes in the trial reveals the truth and illustrates why prime minister Netanyahu refused to admit to any crimes."