Former PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Former PM Benjamin NetanyahuNoam Revkin Fenton/Flash90

According to a senior official in the State Prosecution Service, the chances of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaching a plea bargain with Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit are “slim” at best, and the media is guilty of over-hyping the likelihood of a deal being made.

In conversation with Israel National News, the official, who declined to be named, stressed that, “The media has blown this up way beyond what’s really going on. In my opinion, the likelihood of a plea bargain is very small to slim. Practically speaking, there’s barely any time left in which to conclude such a deal.”

He added that, “Even if Netanyahu’s defense team agree to all the conditions demanded by the Attorney-General, including Netanyahu agreeing to leave political life, there would still need to be extensive negotiations between the prosecution and the defense on every little clause and detail, with all the possible nuances taken into account. It’s not nearly as simple as people are making it out to be.”

On Sunday evening, the former premier and his immediate family are due to meet with their private lawyers at the Ramat Gan home of one of their number. They will be discussing the possibility of reaching a plea bargain and the advisability of doing so, in light of the various possible outcomes of the corruption trial.

Earlier on Sunday, it was reported that Netanyahu’s wife Sara is now opposed to a plea bargain, after seemingly considering it seriously last week, insisting that Netanyahu has done nothing illegal and that there is therefore no reason why he should abandon his political career at this point in his life. Since Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit is reportedly insistent on Netanyahu admitting to moral turpitude in any plea bargain scenario, this would effectively end Netanyahu’s career, as it would bar him from public office for the next seven years.

The couple’s two sons, Yair and Avner, would also prefer to see their father fight it out in court to the last. However, Netanyahu’s defense team are leaning toward the plea bargain option, seeing it as the lesser of two evils given the risk that, if found guilty, Netanyahu could be sentenced to a prison term.

Earlier on Sunday, former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak told Kan Bet that he had been approached by Netanyahu himself, as well as close Likud associates, asking him to approach Mandelblit and convince him to agree to a plea bargain.

“I noted that Netanyahu was once a great defender of the justice system,” Barak said. “Every time there were attacks on the judiciary, I would turn to him and he would stand up for the system. However, from the time of his indictment, he made a sharp turnaround and became the judiciary’s greatest critic.

“I believe that a plea bargain should be reached,” Barak added. “Such an achievement would take the wind out of the sails of those pushing for the destruction of the judiciary. Netanyahu would essentially be admitting that he was responsible for the wrongdoings, and I think that in itself is dramatic enough to tip the scales in that direction.”

Meanwhile, the potential ripple-effect of Netanyahu’s departure from political life are rumored to be giving Prime Minister Naftali Bennett headaches, given that the Likud under new leadership could form allegiances with parties that would not consider them with Netanyahu still at the helm, potentially splitting the coalition.

Bennett himself denied the rumors. “This is a government of action,” he said on Sunday. “All the pundits and commentators can set aside their predictions and scenarios, because this government is going to continue working on behalf of the citizens of Israel.”