TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political and personal future hangs in the balance this week, as a pretrial hearing weighing whether to indict him on corruption charges kicked off.
The meeting was meant to be a last-ditch attempt by Netanyahu to cobble together the unity government between his right-wing Likud and the centrist Blue and White party. But in a statement published Tuesday, Blue and White said the preconditions for future meetings between the negotiating teams had not been met.
The third case alleges that Netanyahu offered advantageous legislation to a major newspaper in return for favorable coverage.
Gantz has previously said his issue lies with governing alongside Netanyahu personally and not the Likud party. But Netanyahu has made it clear that he’s not willing to step aside so the Likud party can form a unity government.
In a video message posted on Twitter on Sunday, Netanyahu said the only option was for him to serve first as prime minister before handing the reins to Gantz within a unity government.
“Regrettably, Likud is sticking to its precondition of Netanyahu first," Blue and White said in a statement released the same day.
The party accused Likud of acting "with the sole aim of generating support in preparation for dragging Israel into another round of elections at the behest of Netanyahu."
If the talks fail, Netanyahu will likely have to hand his mandate to form Israel’s next government to a rival — probably Gantz. If he doesn’t succeed, Rivlin can select another legislator or set in motion what would be the third election in under a year.
Netanyahu is not expected to appear during the four-day hearing that is scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday.
However one of Netanyahu's lawyers, Amit Hadad, ruled out the possibility of a plea bargain Wednesday.
“We believe in the hearing and believe afterwards all three cases will be closed,” he said before entering the hearing.
And even if Netanyahu is indicted whilst still prime minister, Israeli law does not require him to resign unless he is convicted.
He had previously hoped that if he served a fifth term as prime minister, he would be able to pass legislation that would grant him immunity from prosecution. It is unclear whether enough lawmakers would now back the move.
Saphora Smith reported from London and Paul Goldman reported from Tel Aviv.
Saphora Smith is a London-based reporter for NBC News Digital.
Paul Goldman is a Tel Aviv-based producer and video editor for NBC News.