Netanyahu Arrives in Court in First Since February, but Trial Could Yet Be Delayed

Nir Hefetz's testimony could still be delayed after assistant to another key witness, Arnon Milchan, told police her boss and Australian billionaire businessman James Packer bought gifts for Sara Netanyahu, at her request

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Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in court, Tuesday.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in court, Tuesday.Credit: Emil Salman
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in court for the first time since February for the testimony of his former right-hand man, Nir Hefetz, even though the court has yet to decide whether he will take oath amid fresh allegations of bribery that could lead to a new indictment. 

This comes after the personal assistant of Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan – a key witness for the state in the case – told prosecutors that she had new information about her boss relating to the corruption trial. 

According to the State Prosecutor's Office, the new information is not directly connected to the testimony of state witness Nir Hefetz, a former aide of Netanyahu’s. In the wake of the announcement, Netanyahu's defense team requested that the hearing be postponed.

A source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said that on October 24, Milchan’s personal assistant, Hadas Klein, told police that her boss and the Australian billionaire businessman James Packer delivered three bracelets to Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the former prime minister, including one valued at $45,000. In her deposition, Klein stated that Sara Netanyahu had asked for the jewelry.

When asked why she hadn’t told police about the gifts previously, Klein said that her lawyer at the time – Boaz Ben Zur, today a lawyer for Netanyahu – had instructed her to answer the detectives’ questions only, without volunteering any information. Klein said she remembered the newly reported events during the course of the trial.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Netanyahu family said that "the details concerning Sara Netanyahu are not true."

Klein told prosecutors on October 11 that she had information that was relevant to the case and unknown to the prosecutors. With the approval of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, detectives took a new statement from Klein and undertook additional examinations, most recently on Monday morning, the State Prosecutor’s Office statement said. It also said the actions were conducted under a gag order, for fear of possible interference with the investigation.

The prosecution said the additional investigatory materials will be given to the defendants shortly. The statement specified that the materials have no direct bearing on Hefetz’s anticipated testimony, and that prosecutors believe it can be given as scheduled, starting Tuesday. Nevertheless, the statement added, the prosecution would not object to a defense request to cancel the two days of court sessions scheduled for this week and resuming the trial, with Hefetz’s testimony, November 22.

According to the indictment in so-called Case 1000, Klein was responsible for coordinating the delivery of the gifts that Milchan gave to the former prime minister and his wife, and for receiving the couple’s requests. Klein told police that she saw to the delivery of Champagne and cigars to the prime minister’s residence, purchased at the Netanyahus’ request. “Sara requested Champagne in cases of 6 or 12 [bottles], Bibi asked for cigars and knew how much Champagne his wife received. The company’s driver would drive especially to Jerusalem to deliver the Champagne and cigars,” Klein told police.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly receiving gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from Milchan and Packer. According to the indictment, the former prime minister received cigars and Champagne from the two over the course of several years. Netanyahu’s family members, the indictment states, also demanded and received gifts from the businessmen, and Netanyahu was aware of this fact.

Netanyahu’s defense team is arguing that “it is permitted to receive gifts from friends.” According to Netanyahu’s attorneys, Milchan gave him the gifts because the two are friends, and Netanyahu was not aware of the requests made by his family members.

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