Hadas Klein, personal aide to Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, told court on Monday that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accommodated Milchan's requests "in most cases."
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Testifying on one of the corruption cases against Netanyahu – which revolves around suspicions of a quid pro quo relationship with Milchan and another billionaire, James Packer – Klein said Milchan lobbied the former prime minister and his wife to get Yossi Cohen appointed as Israel's national security adviser in 2013.
“Cohen was in touch with Milchan and was a candidate to be the director general of a government ministry," Klein told the Jerusalem District Court. "He wanted to be the head of the National Security Council. He spoke with me and with Arnon a few times, and Arnon promised him that he would speak with Mr. Netanyahu about his appointment."
"One Friday, I received a call from Arnon and he said to me, 'Speak to Yossi Cohen and tell him that Sara likes him,'" Klein continued. "'Tell Yossi what Sara says about him.' Arnon told him that he spoke with the Netanyahus. And then Arnon met with [then-Mossad chief] Tamir Pardo on Friday afternoon. He told Pardo that he spoke to the Netanyahus and they both approved this appointment, and Tamir told Milchan: ‘You did something bad for the State of Israel.’”
Klein described the relationship between Netanyahu and Milchan as close. “Arnon had a lot of things that he wanted to share with Mr. Netanyahu," said Klein. “He did receive a response in most cases, except if there was a cabinet [meeting] or something that made it impossible. Many times, Arnon would say that he needed him urgently for two minutes. He had all the telephone [numbers] of all Netanyahu’s aides. I said to Arnon that one day someone will remember all that, and not to do it.”
Last week, Klein testified that Milchan and businessman James Packer used her to deliver hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of valuable cigars, champagne, coats and jewelry over the years to Netanyahu and his wife Sara at their request.
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Netanyahu's appointment of Cohen to the National Security Council at the time was puzzling as he had very little experience relevant to the position. Haaretz reported at the time that the impression was that Cohen was granted the job as an interim position while he waited out the two years until the departure of Tamir Pardo – after which Cohen replaced him as the head of the Mossad spy agency.
Last year, police opened a probe into Cohen after Haaretz exposed that he was "gifted" over 20,000 dollars in cash from James Packer for his daughter's wedding.
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In her testimony, Klein told of a 2015 incident before Netanyahu's speech to U.S. congress where Sara asked for a piece of jewelry that cost about $10,000. "I said no," Klein said. "The next day Ian Morris, who was Packer's assistant, called me and said 'Listen, I bought an amazing piece of Jewelry for Mrs. Netanyahu.' He told me the amount, and I was frantic. It was crazy — $42,000 ... Later, when I visited her, she asked me to replace." The reason, according to Klein, was that Netanyahu told her it looked cheap.
At the end of 2014, Morris bought a necklace and bracelet for Sara Netanyahu, according to Klein. Afterwards, "Mrs. Netanyahu called me to the prime minister's residence on Balfour and told me that she has the exact same set and could I change it, and described what she wanted."
As for the attempt to replace the jewelry, Klein said: "They were pieces of jewelry worth tens of thousands of shekels, I had to go through an entire procedure. I told Arnon I didn't like it. It was strange that I would buy jewelry worth tens of thousands of shekels. I don’t have those amounts [of money]. I’m not complaining, but I don’t have it. I put it through on my name and exchanged it. I went to Sara at home and gave her the jewelry I exchanged.”
Klein also described cases in which Sara Netanyahu asked her to buy coats for the prime minister and his family, at a cost of about 10,000 shekels. In another case, from 2011, she told about buying earrings made personally at Sara Netanyahu’s request, with Milchan’s daughter being involved and at a cost of “about 6,000 to 8,000 shekels.”
Klein was asked by prosecutors why she didn’t tell about some of the things when she was questioned by the police. She said her previous lawyer, Boaz Ben Zur – who now represents Netanyahu, told her: “’They aren’t your friends.’ They – the prosecution and police – want to reach the total of a million shekels and you don’t need to give it.
"Later I had another lawyer, Giora Aderet, and I told him about these things and he told me, ‘There’s no such thing – initiate a meeting with the [State prosecutor’s Office] and let them know.’ So I met with Liat Ben Ari and Alon [Gildin] and reported, and after that they did a supplementary investigation for me.”
Klein arrived in court with a security guard after last week she filed a complaint with the police against media figure Eli Zipori, who published her home address.
"I was under no pressure to testify. I went against all of my interests, but to me, the law is the law," Klein said at the end of her testimony. "People say it's 'courageous,' I don't see it as courage... I will always speak the truth, and the court will decide."
Klein's cross-examination is set to begin on Tuesday, and Netanyahu is expected to attend the hearing.