Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's defense team said on Wednesday that the chances for a plea deal in his corruption trial with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit are very small.
Netanyahu has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three cases for which he was indicted in 2019 and accused prosecutors of a politically motivated witch-hunt. His trial, which began last year, is being conducted at the Jerusalem District Court.
The defense team's unofficial announcement came two days after sources said Netanyahu has given his defense team a green light to keep pursuing a plea deal with Mandelblit, whose tenure as attorney general is set to end in 12 days.
However, Mandelblit and his senior staff headed by the lead prosecutor in the case Liat Ben Ari, appear unwilling to compromise on a moral turpitude clause of the plea deal that would see Netanyahu barred from Knesset for seven years.
As a result, Netanyahu's attorneys, Boaz Ben Zur and Amit Hadad, believe that at this point in time it is better for the former premier to end negotiations before Mandelblit is replaced.
The Justice Ministry also estimated that the chance of reaching a plea deal between the former prime minister and the outgoing attorney general before his retirement is slim.
On Tuesday, there were reports of ongoing talks between the parties, with members of the prosecution team continuing to review all potential scenarios in the event that a plea deal is signed.
It was also revealed that some members of the prosecution team told Mandelblit that a hard line should be taken with Netanyahu on the deal in general, and not just when it comes to the moral turpitude clause.
The prosecution also signaled to the opposition leader's defense team that the time to make a plea deal while the attorney general is still in office is running out.
Another reason why a plea deal within the next 12 days seems unlikely is Shlomo Filber's upcoming testimony in court in Case 4000, which alleges that the former premier promoted regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the owner of the Bezeq telecom company, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage on its popular Walla! News site.
Filber, a confidant of Netanyahu for many years, is the state's second witness in the case.