How a Drunk, Unstable Billionaire Became Netanyahu and Mossad Chief's Confidant

James Packer wasn't just another billionaire who developed relationships with Israel's elite. The Australian media and casino tycoon with the troubled psyche mingled with those in the most secret circles in the country. Benjamin Netanyahu exploited him to the hilt – and he wasn't the only one who did so

James Packer.
James Packer.Credit: Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz

The villa at 71 Hadar Street in Caesarea has stood abandoned for four years. “No one lives there,” a neighbor says, “apart from maintenance people who keep the house and pool clean and do the gardening.”

Millions of dollars were invested here on a heated swimming pool, a huge Jacuzzi, an outdoor fireplace, a private gym and a host of other amenities, among them a giant 103-inch television. A glimpse through the cracks in the villa’s dark metal fence reveals a blue Audi Q7 SUV parked next to an all-terrain vehicle apparently purchased to navigate the local dunes in this seaside town between Tel Aviv and Haifa. The house was bought about six years ago by James Packer, an Australian businessman and casino tycoon who had inherited billions, but he spent very little time there before leaving Israel abruptly under the shadow of a police investigation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, who own a large home next door, also enjoyed access to the villa. The Netanyahus had a key and apparently acted almost as if they owned it. Israeli-born film producer Arnon Milchan later told the police during their investigation of the prime minister on a variety of corruption charges – that there was “a kind of convenience in moving from house to house, from yard to yard, from pool to pool, from food island to food island.”