Hadas Klein and the price of telling the truth

As a result of her testimony against Netanyahu, Klein is currently contending with threats to her life.

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)

In the last few years, Channel 13 has placed several avid supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu among its senior commentators – or perhaps several of its regular commentators have turned into overt Netanyahu supporters.

Of course, it is absolutely legitimate for Netanyahu supporters to serve as commentators on the three main TV channels (11, 12 and 13), and it is even a positive development, heralding an era of more balanced reporting. Although, it is a little strange that Channel 13 has started using commentators who regularly participate in central programs on Channel 14, which is a self-professed hard-core right-wing channel, for example, attorney David Fohrer (formerly from the State Attorney’s Office), Itamar Fleischmann and Noam Fathi, who are a little less outspoken and extreme in their utterances when they speak on Channel 13.

On the issue of Hadas Klein – the personal assistant of billionaire businessman and film producer Arnon Milchan, who is currently appearing as a witness for the prosecution in Netanyahu’s trial on case 1000 – some of the commentators on Channel 13 have been especially outspoken in smearing the hapless woman, and questioning her integrity and reliability, though this is not necessarily the channel’s official line.

In the years 2011-2016, Klein served as a conduit for expensive gifts, together valued at hundreds of thousands of shekels, for most of which there are invoices and receipts, including Cuban cigars, French pink champagne, jewelry and jackets, allegedly from Milchan and later also Australian billionaire James Packer, to the Netanyahu family.

The word gifts appears in quotes because they were not voluntary gifts from friends, which are permitted by law, as Netanyahu keeps claiming, but rather items demanded by the Netanyahu family, and supplied by the two billionaires in order to remain on good terms with the former (and possibly future) Israeli prime minister.

 Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen in the Jerusalem District Court for his trial. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/REUTERS) Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen in the Jerusalem District Court for his trial. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/REUTERS)

In her evidence, Klein has described many details about how the gifts were delivered in black plastic bags to camouflage them, and how the Netanyahus complained when what they received was not exactly what they had requested. The details Klein has supplied are rather embarrassing, to say the least, and appear to warrant being considered bribery, since Netanyahu provided both Milchan and Packer with services, within the framework of his actions as prime minister.

For some unclear reason, former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit decided to indict Netanyahu in this case only for fraud and breach of trust, and not bribery, and the gifts for Sara Netanyahu were not included in the indictment, because the Prime Minister’s wife is not a civil servant, even though – according to Klein – Bibi was perfectly aware of their existence, as he had told her that all of Sarah requests should be complied with.

One of the details that Klein has described, which I find especially embarrassing, is the fact that on at least one occasion she was told to deliver a bottle of Cointreau (a French orange liqueur), “since Netanyahu likes to dip his cigars in Cointreau.” Unlike the champagne, cigars and jewelry delivered – which were extremely expensive, a one liter bottle of Cointreau costs around 150 shekels (I know because I use Cointreau, which I purchase at the Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem, in fruit salads).

So, what is Klein accused of by Netanyahu supporters? For example, Sharon Gal (a former MK for Yisrael Beytenu) from Channel 13 claims that Klein exaggerated in the quantities of goods supplied, that her evidence is “much ado about nothing,” and that most of what she reported has to do with Sara and not Bibi (which is not true). They even accused her of lying, suggesting that she might have purchased the cigars and champagne for her own household.

Ayala Hasson – a presenter on Channel 13, who increasingly assumes the position of commentator – has been harping on the theme that the expenses at the Ra’anana home of Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, which he chose to declare as his official residence were prime minister, are scandalous and ought to be investigated, implying that this is much more serious than anything alleged in case 1000, completely ignoring the fact that in Bennett’s case one is talking of state funds for security arrangements that the security agencies declared to be necessary, and that when it transpired that 13,000 shekel had been spent monthly on takeaway in the Bennett residence, Bennett immediately opened his wallet and returned the full sum to the state treasury.

In addition, there were no billionaires, lurking behind the scenes, who made regular deliveries of luxury goods on demand and no long-term improvements were made to Bennett’s property. Also, the sums that Hasson claimed to be involved were exaggerated, anyway one counted. In fact, all one can accuse Bennett for is that he refused to move formally to Jerusalem, at least during the week, to some makeshift residence, while the official residence at Balfour Street was formally under renovation. I, at least, haven’t heard Hasson say a critical word about the Netanyahus’ alleged conduct in case 1000.

Dr. Avishai Ben Haim – Channel 13’s commentator on haredi affairs, who speaks a lot about why most Mizrahim, who he associates with the so called “second Israel,” view Netanyahu as their leader – has stated that all the accusations in case 1000, which Klein’s evidence corroborates, are nothing more than a conspiracy against Netanyahu, suggesting that former Labor prime ministers David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin also received expensive gifts, which no one investigated.

It is not clear whether any of this leaves any lasting impression on the general public, though unfortunately there is an audience for such things. At least attorney David Fohrer (mentioned above) declared on channel 13 that “it is much too early to say what will happen in case 1000”, and avoided attacking Klein. As an attorney with a past career in the State Attorney’s Office, he is much more careful in what he says than professional journalists.

At the moment, Klein must contend with threats to her life and the fact that former journalist Eli Zipori published a photograph on his Twitter account of her home in Herzliya, with an indication of its exact location, which he claims to be worth NIS 10 million. Klein, placed a complaint with the police, last Thursday. On Friday, Milchan declared on Channel 12, “I view with disgust all the wild and unbridled incitement, the explicit and implicit threats, and the blunt slanders of my team... I admonish sharply and clearly any effort to slander them and exert unacceptable pressure on them, and I stand by them in face of these attacks”.

When Sharon Gal expressed his contempt for Case 1000, he ended by declaring “I prefer my prime minister with a cigar, and Sara with pink champagne to what went on here in the last year.” My own feelings are the exact opposite to those of Gal. I would prefer any sort of government to the return of French bottles of pink champagne and Cuban cigars in black plastic bags delivered to Balfour Street, and the return of the one responsible for the most damaging opposition conduct to the premiership Israel has ever experienced.

In the final reckoning, it is the Jerusalem District Court that will determine whether Netanyahu will or will not be found guilty in case 1000, not pro-Netanyahu commentators.

The writer, born in Haifa in 1943, worked in the Knesset for many years as a researcher, and has published extensively both journalistic and academic articles on current affairs and Israeli politics. Her book Israel’s Knesset Members: A Comparative Study of an Undefined Job will be published by Routledge on July 29.