The judge presiding over the trial of former finance minister Avraham Hirchson took both the defense and prosecution by surprise on Tuesday when she suggested that they reach a plea bargain. However, political observers said Tel Aviv District Court Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom may not have been referring to Hirchson, but to some of the other defendants in the National Workers' Federation scandal. Hirchson is charged with stealing up to NIS 2.5 million from the National Workers' Federation. The counts in the indictment include theft by a director, fraud and breach of trust in a corporate body, money-laundering, false entry in documents of a corporate body and obtaining something by deceit. Until now, the sides have never discussed a plea bargain. Hirchson has said he intended to plead not guilty to the charges. Tuesday's session before Ofir-Tom was a preliminary hearing to discuss technical matters involving the separation of the indictments against Hirchson and the three other defendants in the case - Yitzhak Ruso, Amatzia Boner and Zion Cohen. Hirchson's trial will officially begin with the reading of the indictment against him and his response to it. This is expected to take place only after the court's summer recess at the end of August. During the hearing, Ofir-Tom addressed the sides and told them, "We can hear this case without testimony. Don't be ashamed to talk to one another." Both sides have interpreted her "advice" as urging them to discuss a plea bargain that would forestall a lengthy trial. Hirchson's lawyer, Ya'acov Weinroth, could not be reached later in the day for a response to the proposal. The Justice Ministry spokesman's office also did not return calls from The Jerusalem Post. However, it is unlikely that either side will agree to a plea bargain. The prosecution appears to be sure of its case, and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz has gone on record as saying in the case of Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi, who is also on trial, that it is important in principle to try public servants suspected of corruption.