Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's late media adviser told police investigators in 2017 that Netanyahu was involved in efforts, while he was finance minister, to obtain permission for Israeli Hollywood entertainment mogul Arnon Milchan to purchase a stake in Channel 10 television, in videotaped testimony aired on Channel 13 Tuesday night following a stormy legal battle. The testimony is potentially relevant to one of the criminal cases underway against the prime minister, who is accused of receiving lavish gifts from wealthy friends, including Milchan.
Shaya Segal, who died of cancer in 2017, was highly critical of Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, in the videotaped testimony that he gave the police. He also noted that he was forced to return the one-time symbolic payment of 2,500 shekels ($770) that he received for his services over the years after Sara Netanyahu found out about the payment and demanded a refund.
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The testimony was broadcast on the investigative television program “Hamakor” (The Source) on Channel 13 on Tuesday evening, after the Supreme Court this week overturned a Jerusalem District Court judge’s ruling from February, allowing the footage to be broadcast.
“When Bibi was finance minister, he saw to it that Milchan would get shares of Channel 10,” Segal said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. “He personally looked after him.”
The police investigator then asked, “Why does it require favoritism?” to which Segal replied, “Because it requires regulatory approval from the Communications Ministry and the Second [Television and Radio] Authority, which reports to the Communications Ministry. And Bibi took it upon himself to arrange it for him.”
“Bibi asked me to arrange a meeting [for Milchan] with Dalia Itzik,” Segal said, referring to the communications minister at the time. “Bibi was in essence demanding of Dalia that she arrange to allow Milchan to become a partner in Channel 10… The payback was given until this very day, for all those things,” Segal said in the 2017 conversation.
Three separate investigations that the police conducted against Netanyahu resulted in charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust and a trial that is currently under way in Jerusalem District Court against the prime minister. One of those cases, dubbed Case 1000, involves allegations that Netanyahu received lavish gifts from Milchan and others, which Netanyahu reciprocated with government favors. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in the cases and Milchan was not indicted in Case 1000.
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When asked why he worked with Netanyahu without being paid, Segal replied, “Out of friendship and faith," noting that Netanyahu committed to give him a senior position later on and didn't hold up his end of the deal. "They think they’re doing you a favor for allowing you to work for them.”
Segal said that attorney David Shimron, a confidant and cousin of Netanyahu, advised that Segal be paid a token sum to avoid claims that Segal was not compensated.
“Bibi gave me a bank check for 2,500 shekels. Sara found out about it a month, month-and-a-half later,” Segal recounted. “She started screaming and said if she doesn’t get the money back, she would go out shopping with all the credit cards and use up all of the family’s money. She went wild, one of her attacks.”
Segal said he refunded the money the following day in cash after Mrs. Netanyahu threatened not to attend an event that was arranged for her.
“I can’t express to you how much he exploited me over all those years,” referring to the current prime minister, “how much he used me. I was his closest adviser. The ties with the lady, with Sara, were very intimate ties, very strong but very, very difficult. Because she’s demanding and she’s crazy, and she shouts, and she screams. It’s terribly difficult. It's terribly difficult to handle it.”
A legal battle transpired over the publication of the footage. By ruling this week that the footage could be broadcast, the Supreme Court overturned a district court ruling from February, which had barred publication of the footage.
Because Israeli law prohibits the publication of video or audio footage of the interrogation of a suspect or the questioning of a witness, Channel 13's Raviv Drucker – who also writes opinion pieces in Haaretz – and Channel 13 had filed a request with the Jerusalem District Court panel of judges presiding over Netanyahu’s criminal case seeking permission to broadcast the footage.
The prime minister objected to having the three-judge panel presiding over his case see the footage in question and the request was therefore transferred to another Jerusalem District Court judge, Refael Yacobi, who in February refused to lift the ban, stating that Drucker and Channel 13 had not provided any special reason for making an exception in this case. The judge also said that the broadcast would constitute a violation of Segal’s privacy after his death, although Segal’s widow had given her consent to Drucker to use the footage in his program.
Netanyahu’s Likud party issued the following response to the publication of the footage: “When the court determines that there were serious flaws in the investigations of the prime minister and when the concocted cases against him begin falling apart, the prosecution has no choice but carrying out a criminal, biased and ugly leak [of material]. After the criminal acts that were committed to extort witnesses against the prime minister were discovered, one can only imagine the kind of threats and pressure that was applied to get Segal – a few days after he had undergone complicated surgery for his cancer – to deliver these lies. The public is smart and therefore won’t buy this worn ploy.”