Analysis |

Netanyahu Trial: Testimony by Billionaire's Aide Is Unsurprising, but Terribly Shocking

The things described by Hadas Klein in the former prime minister's trial have been published before, but what matters now is that every Israeli knows who ran the country for the past 12 years – and who wants to return to power

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Arnon Milchan aide Hadas Klein arriving at the Jerusalem District Court for her testimony in former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial, on Tuesday.
Arnon Milchan aide Hadas Klein arriving at the Jerusalem District Court for her testimony in former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial, on Tuesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

The testimony of Hadas Klein poses an agonizing dilemma for the writer who seeks to select its main points: On what shall we focus? On the repulsive greed of the former prime minister and his wife, a pair of millionaires in their own right who glommed onto two billionaires and milked them with no limits, no morals and no restraints?

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On the merciless maltreatment of James Packer, their fanboy with bipolar disorder who was often brought to tears because he felt “pressured” by them and their demands?

On the criminal behavior patterns, when in the midst of their alleged criminal activity they cover up and disguise the extortion mechanism from their benefactors, with code names such as “green leaves” for cigars and “pink” for Champagne and the opaque black bags in which the items were transported to Balfour Street and to Caesarea?

Perhaps on the way they turned the home of their neighbor, Packer, into their own private supply warehouse, entering and taking everything they could lay their hands on, splashing in his pool, when they have one of their own?

Or on the jewelry and the coats – not exactly “perishable” goods – that Klein was forced to buy for the prime minister’s wife, who loves freebies, at her request? On the piggishness and lack of consideration for the representatives of the so-called Second Israel, when they made Arnon Milchan’s personal assistant and driver come to them urgently on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, with prodigious amounts of Champagne for the lady and cigars for the lord in Caesarea?

By the way, Sara Netanyahu testified in her family’s libel trial against Ehud Olmert that she doesn’t drink at all. “I’m incapable of drinking so much,” she told the court. Is it conceivable that she lied? Her version does not square, either, with testimony from staff at the official residence in Jerusalem, who reported having encountered her drunk and more vicious than usual.

She and her husband claimed their relationship with Amanda and Arnon Milchan was one of friendship and characterized by reciprocity. They exchanged gifts with one another. Klein told the court Tuesday what the Wantonyahus gave the Milchans: a keychain, and a toy from Red Pirate Toys. Presumably, even those Sara did not part with easily. For her, it’s not “treat a penny like a pound,” it’s treat a penny like a thousand pounds. She gives a penny and receives – excuse me, demands – tens of thousands of pounds in return.

The things described by Klein, who arrived in the company of a muscular bodyguard (like other key prosecution witnesses, she has received threats from the violent and dangerous Bibi-ist cult), came as no surprise to anyone. The details have been published before. Yet when you hear it firsthand, your jaw drops, your vomiting reflex goes nuts and your ears ring.

The court sessions in the case will coincide with the election campaign. Will this affect the political situation of Defendant No. 1? It is not at all certain that the next voter polls will show a decline in Likud Knesset seats. It is clear to almost any reasonable person that the chance of the court ruling that everything was legal is close to zero. But leave aside the criminal aspect and the question of the ballot box.

That’s not what matters. What matters is that every Israeli knows who ran the country for the past 12 years, and who wants to return to power: a pair of stingy, thieving extortionists whose grotesque conduct would be almost comical if it weren’t so sad and shameful. Characters that seem to have been written by Hanoch Levin and Moliere together in heaven.

Benjamin Netanyahu awaits the vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, last week in Jerusalem.Credit: Ariel Schalit/AP

As fate would have it, while the reports were still streaming from the court, we learned of the retirement of Yuval Steinitz from political life, after 23 years representing Likud in the Knesset and a dozen in the cabinet. “I need clean air,” he explained. The air in the media surrounding his announcement was polluted to the point of being a health hazard.

Intentional or not, the metaphor Steinitz chose fit nicely with a recent remark by MK Benny Begin: “The Likud representation in the Knesset has become an air pollution factory.” One of the greatest polluters is Steinitz’s neighbor in the Knesset, David Amsalem, who called the Netanyahu gifts trial “a few cigarettes.”

Steinitz is one of the last (relatively) statesmanlike Likudniks on the party slate. A minority within a minority, almost a persecuted minority. Recently he was the only MK in Likud (and the entire opposition) who did not support the detestable bill of Amsalem and May Golan to assign the appointment of Supreme Court justices to the government – a bill that’s just a preview for what Netanyahu, Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Arye Dery and Moshe Gafni are planning for the justice system. Steinitz abstained because his wife is on the court. But in any event he is probably appalled by the clear, stated intention (which Netanyahu denies) to destroy the Supreme Court, the State Prosecutor’s Office and the position of attorney general.

Steinitz fell out of the couple’s favor long ago. The mere fact that Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar led his wife’s selection as a candidate for the Supreme Court did little to add to Steinitz’s credibility with the residents of the house of conspiracy theories in Caesarea.

Today’s Likud has no room for someone like him. It’s doubtful he’d be elected. In the last primary he was pushed from the top 10 slots to the next 10, and then fell even further. In the next primary he’d probably continue his slide. His choice was simple: If Likud remains in the opposition, there’s nothing for him there. If Likud returns to power, he would be unwilling to lend a hand to the planned attack on the rule of law.

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