Hollywood Mogul’s Aide Testifies She Bought the Netanyahus Cigars, Coats, Jewelry at Their Demand

Benjamin Netanyahu and his family are accused of receiving gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from businessmen Arnon Milchan and James Packer

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, on Tuesday.
Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, in March.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

The evidence stage in so-called Case 1000, in which then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accused of improperly receiving expensive gifts in exchange for favors, began on Tuesday.

According to the indictment in the case – one of three corruption cases in which the former prime minister is currently on trial in Jerusalem District Court – Netanyahu and his family received gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from businessmen Arnon Milchan and James Packer. Testifying Tuesday for the prosecution was Hadas Klein, Milchan's personal assistant and later Packer’s Israeli representative. Klein testified that she was tasked with delivering the gifts to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.

"Apparently Arnon Milchan doesn’t haul drinks. If it was champagne, then [Michan’s driver] Yonatan and I were responsible for the logistics. I would tell Yonatan – we need to [do it] now," Klein said on the witness stand.

Klein testified that Milchan would visit the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem with a bag on his shoulder containing cigars for Netanyahu. “It was impossible to go there without gifts,” she said. “There were a lot of requests from Sara to replace watch batteries, including Mr. Netanyahu’s watches. One time, she asked if I could also replace a [watch] band,” Klein recounted.

"One of the things Arnon Milchan taught Packer – aside from to love Israel, its landscape, language and people – was that when you travel to Jerusalem to visit the Netanyahus, you can't come empty-handed."

The former prime minister’s lawyer, Amit Haddad, then objected to the line of testimony saying that it involved information that was not in the indictment.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in this and the other two cases on which he is being tried. In Case 1000, he claimed that the gifts from Milchan to himself and his wife were gifts between friends. In her statement to the police, however, Klein told police that the couple demanded that Milchan supply them with cigars, bottles of champagne, and jewelry. "I drove to Caesarea and physically delivered to Sara coats for Netanyahu.”

“Everything was by explicit demand," Klein said.

At one point on the stand, Klein began crying as she spoke about the emotional strain in testifying in court. She expressed consternation about allegations that she said were made against her by Sara Netanyahu, who is not a defendant in the case. Referring to Milchan’s driver, Klein said that Mrs. Netanyahu “said that either there was a conspiracy between me and Yonatan or that we were stealing together or that we were using Arnon’s [Milchan’s] credit card, and I was very hurt.”

In addition to furnishing the prime minister with cigars, Klein said Netanyahu asked that they buy him Cointreau liqueur, in which he would dip his cigars.

“On Friday evening, I got a call and Arnon was saying that we need Cointreau liqueur. I called Yonatan, who bought it at a store at the Em Haderech [shopping center] near Beit Yanai, which is open on Friday [evening].” The driver then brought it to Netanyahu at his home in Caesarea, she said.

Klein said that she kept a supply of champagne at her home because she knew that the Netanyahus would request it. “And in fact, on a Friday, I received a call from her [Sara Netanyahu] asking that I give it to Moshiko, her driver. I left everyone at my mother’s house and went to give Moshiko the champagne.”

When it came to gifts for the Netanyahus, Klein said that Michan explained it as follows: “There’s no choice. It’s the prime minister of Israel. Do you want quiet in the country? Without this, we don’t have quiet.”

Klein and Milchan had been scheduled to testify later in the trial, but their appearances in court were moved forward due to concern that they were being subjected to undue pressure.

Hadas Klein at court in Jerusalem on Tuesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

According to the indictment, Netanyahu acted to advance Milchan’s interests at at time when the prime minister was receiving gifts from Milchan, a Hollywood entertainment mogul. Netanyahu approached senior members of the U.S. government with a request to extend Milchan’s permit to reside in the United States. He also pushed for an extension of Israeli regulations exempting returning residents from taxes and from reporting foreign income, a policy that benefitted Milchan.

Netanyahu was also allegedly involved in attempts to merge Israeli commercial television broadcasters Keshet and Reshet at a time when Milchan was considering acquiring shares in one of them. In so doing, the indictment claims, Netanyahu “acted in the course of his public duties, including that of prime minister, for the benefit of businessman Milchan, while in a severe conflict of interest between his personal obligations to Milchan and his obligations to the public.”

Netanyahu’s defense attorneys claim that the gifts from Milchan were not given because of his position but rather because of the close friendship between them, and that Netanyahu’s lawyer had approved his accepting gifts under such circumstances. They further say that the monetary value of the gifts is lower than what appears in the indictment, and that Netanyahu was not necessarily aware of the gifts given to his wife.

As for his actions on Milchan’s behalf, Netanyahu said he acted on the merits of the issues and that in some instances, he acted against the interests of the businessman.

In November, prosecutors announced that Klein had asked to provide additional information. She said that in addition to the benefits mentioned in her original statement, Sara Netanyahu received three bracelets worth tens of thousands of shekels. Following this evidence, the prosecution asked to add three witnesses on its behalf.

Monday saw the testimony of Shai Hayek, Netanyahu’s former spokesman, regarding Case 4000, the so-called Walla-Bezeq case. In that case Netanyahu is alleged to have provided government regulatory concessions to the Bezeq telecommunications company in exchange for favorable coverage on the Walla news website, which Bezeq owned at the time.

Netanyahu’s attorney, Boaz Ben Zur, sought to prove that the contacts established between Hayek’s staff and Walla’s leadership were not unusual, and that Hayek directly contacted Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua 10 times over four years. The indictment attributes only negligible involvement to Hayek in alleged efforts to influence Walla's coverage, claiming that it was usually done through others, chiefly the Netanyahu family’s former communications consultant, Nir Hefetz.

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