Sara Netanyahu crossed lines and tried to get me to withdraw testimony - Witness

Hadas Klein, an aide to tycoon Arnon Milchan, testifies Tuesday in Case 1,000 – the breach of trust charge against the former prime minister.

 Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, allegedly tried to get Hadas Klein, an aide to tycoon Arnon Milchan, to withdraw the testimony she gave to police, Klein testified on Tuesday.

Klein took the stand as part of the hearing in Case 1000 (the Illegal Gifts Affair) against the former prime minister. Klein’s testimony marks a transition away from the media bribery in Case 4000 (the Bezeq-Walla Affair), which has dominated the trial since witnesses started testifying a year ago.

She testified in the Jerusalem District Court about the connection between Netanyahu and billionaires Milchan and James Packer.

Klein said Packer loved Netanyahu, and he said, “[Netanyahu] is the most impressive man in the world.” She said Packer was impressed when Netanyahu introduced him to then-Mossad director Yossi Cohen and discussed connecting the two.

Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

What is Case 1,000?

Like Case 2000, the indictment is based on the breach of trust charge, which is quite broad and hard to define.

Netanyahu allegedly received NIS 267,254 ($75,800) in cigars and NIS 184,448 ($52,300) worth of champagne from Milchan from 2011-2016. Sara Netanyahu allegedly received NIS 10,900 ($3,100) worth of jewelry from him in the same time period.

He and his family also received another NIS 229,174 ($65,000) in champagne and cigars from Packer from 2014-2016.

The testimony

Klein testified on Tuesday about how cigars and champagne from Milchan were passed on to Netanyahu, often through the prime minister’s various aides.

She discussed an instance in which Netanyahu directly demanded that Milchan or Packer find work for an associate of his. When Klein said it would be hard because they had fewer employees in Israel, Netanyahu said she should have Packer fly in from Australia to meet with him to personally discuss finding the associate a job there.

In another instance, Klein said Netanyahu had told her Milchan should calm down about how long it was taking to get him a special visa for residing and traveling in the US. According to the indictment, Milchan and Klein appealed repeatedly to the then-prime minister in December 2013 and in 2014 to help him receive a long US visa extension.

Klein said Netanyahu had said as long as Milchan was rich and healthy, he should not worry so much. She said she traveled to Caesarea to provide a necklace and a ring directly to Sara, as requested by the Netanyahus, from Milchan.

Klein said she and Milchan’s driver Yonatan would deliver cigars for him and champagne for her.

She described numerous fights with both of them when they did not get the desired gifts. At one point, Klein threatened to quit working for Milchan if he did not get Sara to stop sending her texts, which she considered harassment.

In a different anecdote, Klein recalled that Milchan got sick of the gifts and told her to tell Sara they would need to stop giving the gifts or reduce the amount of them; this was particularly a concern because their accountant questioned the legality of it all.

Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, arrives to a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on July 5, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Klein also testified that Milchan had brought Packer in to ensure he was not the sole gift-giver. This move would ease his financial burden.

Klein gave an example of how the Netanyahus wanted to keep the gift-giving secret. She said Sara had always instructed the gifts to be given in large opaque boxes.

Her voice shaking, Klein tearfully testified about how Sara had accused her of stealing Milchan’s money in a bid to deflect the purchases of the cigars and champagne back onto Klein.

She swore on her father’s grave and in the name of her sick mother that she had followed their values of telling the truth.

Klein accused Sara of crossing all the lines and pressuring her not to cooperate with law enforcement.

She said former coworkers had told her Milchan would fire her as soon as the trial is over and that he was only waiting for her to testify to avoid charges of witness intimidation.

The defense and the court are expected to ask why – if not quid pro quo – there is enough to charge Netanyahu with breach of trust. Also, if Milchan was not charged for giving Netanyahu gifts, why should the prime minister be charged?

Questions were also raised on Tuesday about how much the prosecution will be able to use gifts given to Sara against her husband, as she was not charged.

Though former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit never fully explained why he did not charge Sara, he implied that it was unclear in the law what obligations and duties she had as a prime minister’s wife, if any.

There are also big questions about how Milchan will testify. The prosecution is concerned about reports that Netanyahu and his lawyer Boaz Ben Zur have continued to speak with Milchan during the investigation and since the trial began.

While they claim that their contact has not been related to the trial, the prosecution last year threatened Ben Zur with disciplinary charges for the problematic contact.

Defense attorney Amit Hadad replaced Ben Zur on Tuesday and is expected to run the defense of Cases 1000 and 2000.

The big question will be whether the court sees all of the actions Netanyahu took for Milchan as a series of unconnected acts or as part of a damning pattern.

According to the indictment, Netanyahu summoned IDF Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot in 2010 to provide Milchan with an IDF helicopter to go to Jordan for business.

Netanyahu’s lawyers have told The Jerusalem Post this was for businessman Ratan Tata to advance deals with Jordan and not for Milchan.

However, the prosecution will bring testimony that Netanyahu also met with Milchan’s accountant, Zeev Feldman, to ensure that the business plans would benefit the billionaire.

There is also testimony from then-finance minister Yair Lapid about Netanyahu trying to persuade him to give Milchan a massive tax exemption during two meetings in late 2013.

The former prime minister initially approved a short extension for Milchan through then-US Ambassador Dan Shapiro. When this short extension was not enough, Netanyahu obtained a longer extension by speaking with then-US secretary of state John Kerry.