Netanyahu's Lawyer, on the Spot: Can Public Servants Accept Gifts?

On the line with attorney Yossi Cohen.

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Attorney Yossi Cohen.
Attorney Yossi Cohen.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Nir Gontarz
Nir Gontarz

Hello to attorney Yossi Cohen, the lawyer of Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu. Nir Gontarz from Haaretz here. How are things?


Do you have a minute to spare?


Arnon Milchan reportedly said in his [police] interrogation that he asked Sara Netanyahu whether it was proper for him to give her presents, and she replied that she purportedly received legal advice stating that it’s proper and legal. As far as I know, you are their lawyer, and I wanted to know if you were the one who gave her that legal advice.

No, no, no. Listen, it’s all leaks from interrogations. Distortions. I do not confirm that she said that, and I do not confirm that Look, you’re talking about a report claiming that someone from the Netanyahu family consulted with their lawyer about gifts, and he said that it’s permissible to accept gifts from friends. Is that what you’re referring to?


I do not confirm that there was any such thing.

But you gave her advice to that effect?

I’m not saying I did and I’m not saying I didn’t.

What’s the story? So say you did or you didn’t.

I can’t. Listen. What – do you want me to get into trouble because of you over

... for you to get into trouble with Sara? Heaven forbid!

No, no, no. I’ll get into trouble with breach of a client’s trust and also for telling you something I’m not allowed to tell. I have an obligation of loyalty to the client.

Let me retract that, and ask you a theoretical question.


Let’s say the wife of an elected official came to you and asked whether she could accept gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars on a regular basis.

Let’s go our separate ways. Call me for questions that aren’t theoretical Drop it. I don’t reply to questions like that.

Why not?

Nir, take me out of the equation. What do you really

You’re a key figure. Besides what’s-his-name Nir Hefetz, there isn’t anyone who knows the Netanyahus' inside story so well.

So? Again: I am a lawyer. Nir Hefetz can tell you whatever he wants. I have immunity when it comes to everything I discuss with my client.

That’s why I asked theoretically.

No, no, Nir. It won’t work. That’s not what you’re asking.

I’ll try again. Attorney Jacob Weinroth said in an interview that there was no problem with the Netanyahu family receiving gifts. Is that correct from the legal standpoint?

Look, you’re dragging me in again. I didn’t say she received gifts and I didn’t say that Jacob said that.

I’m saying it.

Ask him. Do you want me to be Jacob’s interpreter?

No. I want you to be an interpreter of the law.

Why are you asking me? No, Nir. It’s not right. Not right. Don’t mention me.

What does that mean, “Don’t mention me”? And besides, you’re super-cautious. More than Weinroth, who immediately jumped in and said they are allowed to receive gifts. Actually, a public servant is forbidden to receive gifts.

Listen, if you want to do some work, look at the Gifts Law, without any connection to me, and you’ll see that the law forbids a public person from receiving gifts only if the gifts were given in connection with the fact that he is a public person. The conclusion is that there is nothing to prevent gifts from being accepted between friends.

Now you’re talking. And do you know what I’ve been thinking for a while?


I ask myself the following question: If Mr. Netanyahu had remained a furniture salesman in the Rim Company, would Milchan have even looked in his direction? Would he have given him gifts?

Nir, Nir, Nir, this isn’t for me! This conversation is not for me!

What? Why?

I am a lawyer and I have a client, and I do not talk about his affairs, neither good things nor bad. That’s all. At least not until the investigation is over.

Then let’s talk about Igal Sarna. [Sarna, a journalist with Yedioth Ahronoth, is being sued for libel by the Netanyahus for alleging that Sara Netanyahu forced the prime minister’s convoy to stop on a major highway and made her husband get out of the car.]

I am in charge of that case, and I can answer you.

Great. I understand that the Netanyahus asked to be allowed not to appear in court. Is that right?

A base lie. A base lie. I will explain. You can say this in my name. That’s the opposite of what happened. Sarna got a slap in the face from the court. You can write that from me.

It’s all from you.

He submitted a motion and wrote that he would summon four witnesses. After that he wanted to submit four affidavits instead After that he said that he didn't have any witnesses, but that he wanted to summon two former Shin Bet security service heads, [Yuval] Diskin and [Yoram] Cohen, for them to talk about the norms. He said, “I have no witnesses.” No one wants to testify about that event. He asked that they be summoned in order to prove that there was a pattern [of behavior]. That it happened. That people talked about it.

That the Shin Bet talked about what to do if Sara yells at Bibi, yes?

Okay. Alright. We submitted two requests. We said: There are two hearings, on February 26 and on March 14. We submitted a request and said – long before we knew he had no witnesses – that because he had four witnesses and he was going to testify [too], we asked that Netanyahu and his wife not come to the first hearing, only to the second one. That was our request. Okay? And then he submitted a motion, and said he had no witnesses. What did the judge rule? He did not allow Diskin to testify. He allowed Cohen, but only on one specific point. He ruled that he could not be questioned about a pattern [of behavior]. Only about whether the incident occurred. The specific incident – that she threw him [Netanyahu] out of the car. So the judge ruled that the couple would come to the first hearing and would not be requried to come twice, and we will finish the whole thing.

Is there a chance that you will retract the suit in order to avoid that testimony?

No way!

You’re going all the way?

What a question. We’re going [all the way], and he will lose the case, and he is a fraudster.

But will Igal be allowed to ask Sara whether she ever attacked Bibi physically?

No. Again, listen: The lawsuit is specific and focused.

Alright, but are you sure the judge won’t allow Sara to be asked a question of that kind?

He will not! Not only am I sure – he’s already disallowed it. They [the defense] submitted an ugly, insolent questionnaire with disgusting questions, and the judge disqualified them all.

Some of them.

All of them! He allowed them to ask We argued that only three of the questions were relevant, from 40-something. What are the questions? Did this event happen, and the judge actually only allowed the questions we agreed to. He will not allow He can’t do, let’s say, whatever he wants with this some sort of media stunt. The judge will not let him, because it’s insolent. Do you understand? That is not the purpose of the trial. [Sarna] is being sued because of two specific claims: Did she throw him out of the car, and afterward did he stand there and try to get a lift. He has to prove that that happened. Not stories The judge won’t let him. The judge told him explicitly, “You have to prove that this event occurred.”

And you’re sure that the Shin Bet bodyguards were never given a directive about what to do in the event of domestic chaos?

No way! What nonsense! Repulsive disgusting.

Alright, Yossi. Thanks.

Disgusting Alright, my friend. Thanks.

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