Before Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara’s decision against a non-binding mediation process in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, the three Jerusalem District Court judges overseeing the case recently met with the sides and pushed them to agree, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday.
The network, which didn’t cite a source, asserted that the target audience of the meeting two weeks ago was Baharav-Miara, who informed Netanyahu’s legal team earlier this week that the process would not move forward.
According to the station’s assessment, the judges’ efforts indicated they think both the prosecution and defense need to reconsider the value of continuing what is already a prolonged trial and one with no clear end in sight.
Netanyahu’s camp is considered keen to mediate, the report said. His lawyers reportedly met with Baharav-Miara in April to discuss potential mediation, seeking to convince her to back such a process, which was first raised in March when one of the judges asked prosecutors and defense attorneys to consider it.
Baharav-Miara informed Netanyahu’s legal team on Monday that the process would not advance. Hebrew media outlets reported she was skeptical of the value of mediation and would only move forward if Netanyahu commits to leaving public life, a result that could have long since been achieved under a proposed plea deal.
Mediation is generally held before a serving judge (not one of the judges in the trial), who does not hear witnesses and does not restart the trial. Rather, the judge tries to work toward what amounts to a potential plea bargain. The process would have brought the legal proceedings to an end more quickly.
The premier faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed without evidence that the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, and law enforcement to push him from office.
A long-standing proposed deal under former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit would see Netanyahu plead to breach of trust charges and potentially leave political life, in exchange for serving no prison time.
According to unconfirmed reports of plea deal talks in late 2021 to early 2022 between Netanyahu’s lawyers and Mandelblit, the former attorney general was demanding that any plea deal with Netanyahu include a clause of “moral turpitude” — which would bar him from public office for seven years.
Some reports said that a period of just two years was also discussed in the plea bargain negotiations, and that Mandelblit backtracked after temporarily agreeing to this. In addition, the reports at the time said that other charges would be significantly lowered in two of the cases against the former premier, and dismissed in the third.
In a statement following the collapse of the talks, Netanyahu said he would not agree to acknowledge “moral turpitude” as part of a potential plea bargain, and said he had no intention of leaving politics.
Netanyahu’s trial began three years ago and, as things stand, the proceedings, including potential appeals, are seen as unlikely to end before 2028 or 2029.