There is no question that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not enjoy the testimony of Case 1000 Illegal Gifts Affair witness Hadas Klein.
The only question is how much did it damage Netanyahu in both the case and in terms of his broader legal-political fate?
On the one hand, Klein could be viewed as the most damaging witness so far.
Compared to other prosecution witnesses like Shlomo Filber, or even Nir Hefetz, she did not hesitate, did not substantively alter her story and remained steadfast under tough questioning from Netanyahu’s defense lawyer Amit Hadad.
She did not attack the prosecution as both Filber and Hefetz did, reserving her attacks for Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
Critically, she had many direct interactions with Netanyahu himself and can serve as a bridge proving that the then-prime minister knew about a stream of gifts going to Sara due to his relationships with various tycoon billionaires.
Klein provided both a significant amount of detail regarding alleged illegal gifts and powerful anecdotes to drive home the message thematically.
If half of the stories she told about the Netanyahus were true, they would leave most Israelis, even some of his supporters, cringing.
Further, she could serve as a hammer to destroy Netanyahu’s alibi, that the gifts were given in friendship – see her telling about how her boss, billionaire Arnon Milchan, showed how superficial his relations were with the Netanyahus, by ordering his staff to put up pictures of them just right before they would visit.
It was clear that as soon as the Netanyahus left, he had his staff put back pictures of Shimon Peres.
But Hadad’s cross examination did still find holes.
Klein and Milchan had a huge volume of text messages with the Netanyahus which, on their face, seemed to suggest very close relations.
Hadad also showed that the Netanyahus gave reciprocal gifts to both of them.
Maybe, and most critically, Hadad proved that what might have motivated Milchan the most to give Netanyahu gifts was not always a specific issue he wanted help with as much as the feeling of power he felt in having easy access to a head of state.
In one instance, the billionaire pressed Klein to get Netanyahu pulled out of a session of the Knesset within minutes, and she indicated that such access for Milchan was not infrequent.
Even the low-grade crime of breach of trust requires concrete conflicts of interest where the politician had power to influence matters in favor of the rich person.
THE DEFENSE may also succeed in reducing the amounts listed for the gifts if the prosecution can only produce receipts for portions of them.
When Milchan testifies, he may tell a much grayer story, which could dilute Klein’s allegations.
And it looked suspicious that Klein, Milchan and billionaire James Packer all had many cell phones destroyed, with the police not pursuing cell phone evidence.
But after all of that, the fact is that there is no good motivation for Klein to lie and go after the Netanyahus.
Hadad tried to say that she was lying to protect Milchan, but at the end of the day, that still draws attention to the Netanyahus receiving gifts at an off-the-charts value on a regular basis for years while the prime minister sought to help Milchan with tax breaks, a US visa and other business interests.
Netanyahu’s other alibi – that he was trying to help Milchan as a major ally of Israel – will probably not get him off the hook, even if it is true.
All of the holes, including reciprocal gifts to Klein and Milchan of much lesser value, may be seen by the judges ultimately as side issues.
So what if the court convicts Netanyahu of breach of trust in Case 1000?
If that is the only conviction, it would probably not be enough for a finding of “moral turpitude” or jail time, which would mean that the former prime minister turned opposition leader could continue in politics.
On the other extreme, if Netanyahu is convicted of bribery in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair, he would almost certainly be out of politics and get jail time.
A more ambiguous scenario would be conviction of breach of trust in both cases, but acquittal of bribery.
Some legal experts think two minor convictions would be enough to end Netanyahu’s career. But others think that even two convictions, if both are minor, would be insufficient.
The panel could also split. Judge Rivkah Friedman Feldman, who also convicted Ehud Olmert, is most likely to convict.
Judge Moshe Baram seems more sympathetic to the defense and more likely to acquit or convict only on minor charges with no moral turpitude.
Judge Oded Shaham’s view is less clear as he is the quietest of the three.
Netanyahu could still cut a plea deal, but after Klein’s testimony, the prosecution will probably only accept a deal that ends Netanyahu’s career.
There are still plenty more opportunities for both defense and prosecution when the court hears from Milchan, Netanyahu himself, Sara Netanyahu, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and others.