Israel Police Question Netanyahu for Sixth Time Over Illicit Gifts

Interrogation will focus not only on cigars and champagne, but also on other suspected bribes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, November 19, 2017.
RONEN ZVULUN/AFP

Police arrived at the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon to question him for a sixth time over the allegations that he accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen.

Netanyahu is suspected of accepting gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, including expensive cigars, champagne and jewelry, from several businessmen, including Arnon Milchan. In return he allegedly advanced the their interests, including helping Milchan obtain a U.S. visa after the American government canceled it.

Ten days ago, Netanyahu was questioned by the police for the fifth time.

The investigation, led by Brig. Gen. Koresh Barnour, is expected to focus not only on the cigars and champagne allegedly gifted by Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer to the Netanyahu family, but also on other presents and favors given to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, that have apparently not yet been investigated.

To date, Milchan has been questioned by the police four times, and is suspected of bribery after investigations that took place in London.

While the police look to conclude their probe into the so-called “Case 1000,” Milchan has held a series of consultations in London with his associates, lawyer Boaz Ben Zur and communications adviser Ronen Tzur.

At this point police do not intend to question Milchan again, despite the investigation seemingly making him a suspect, says a source close to the matter. The source added that ultimately, Milchan will not be indicted and will instead be used as a key witness in the case.

Last week, testimony from Milchan’s personal assistant, Hadas Klein, was revealed on Israeli television. Klein was reportedly responsible for transferring the champagne bottles and cigars to the prime minister’s residence, as per the Netanyahus’ alleged requests.

“Sara requested champagne bottles in cases of 6 or 12, Bibi asked for cigars, and knew the amount of champagne his wife received. The company driver would drive especially to Jerusalem to deliver the champagne and cigars,” Klein reportedly told the police.

Klein also told of strange requests by Netanyahu, including a demand that someone come to fix a leak in the residence. “I didn’t approve the request, and then Sara called and yelled that Milchan and I were blowing her off after a few hours. Netanyahu himself called and said it’s not OK what Milchan and Packer were doing to his wife, and that they needed to understand what she’s trying to communicate,” Klein reportedly said.

Netanyahu is expected to be questioned at least two more times relating to the so-called Case 2000, in which the prime minister is suspected of negotiating with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for positive coverage in the daily.