Netanyahu Asked Hollywood Producer Milchan About Gifts During Talks on U.S. Visa, Former Aide Says

Netanyahu lobbied the U.S. to renew Milchan's visa after it was revoked following an interview in which he admitted to playing a role in Israel's nuclear program

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File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli businessman Arnon Milchan in 2005.
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli businessman Arnon Milchan in 2005.Credit: David Silverman / Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked his friend and Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan if he had bought him cigars during a conversation about assisting the Israeli billionaire with his U.S. uisa, according to the testimony of former-Netanyahu aide Ari Harow, Israel's Channel 10 reported Tuesday.

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Milchan is the central figure in what is known as Case 1000: the police investigation of Netanyahu and his wife Sara, who are suspected of soliciting expensive cigars, champagne and jewelry from Milchan worth hundreds of thousands of shekels. The Netanyahus claim that the items were innocent gifts from Milchan, who they say is a close friend.

The latest statement from Harow, Netanyahu's former chief of staff who turned state's evidence in 2017, is thought to provide further evidence of the link between the prime minister's assistance to Milchan, and the gifts he is accused of requesting in return.

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The police are also investigating whether Sara Netanyahu asked the Israeli Hollywood entertainment executive to cover tens of thousands of shekels in repairs at the Netanyahu family home in Caesarea. The request was reportedly conveyed by Sara Netanyahu to Milchan's representative in Israel, Hadas Klein, but was turned down

In 2013, the U.S. government declined to renew Milchan's long-term residency visa after he was interviewed on the Israeli television show Uvda (Fact) and told of his contributions to the Israeli nuclear program.

Last year, it was reported that Netanyahu had spoken to former Secretary of State John Kerry at least three times about getting Milchan a 10-year visa, while a number of former senior U.S. administration officials told Haaretz that the prime minister had also raised the issue with then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in 2014.

At the end of last year, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was summoned to testify. According to the report, Dermer, who is considered close to Netanyahu, acted on the prime minister's behest to advance Milchan's interests.

Netanyahu claims the visa was not done as a favor to Milchan, but rather as part of Israel's security needs. He said there are other instances in which he has done so in the past, including with Uzi Arad, another former aide turned critic.