Key witness in Netanyahu trial denies friendship with ex-premier’s wife

Hadas Klein, on second day of cross-examination, disputes defense’s claim she received ‘protection’ in investigation and was ‘on the side’ of investigators

Hadas Klein arrives at a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem District Court, July 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Hadas Klein arrives at a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem District Court, July 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On her second day under cross-examination, a key witness in the corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu denied claims by the defense that she and Sara Netanyahu were friends, and rebuffed attempts by Netanyahu’s legal team to undermine her standing as a witness.

Hadas Klein, a top aide to Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, took the stand on Wednesday for a second day of cross-examination by Netanyahu’s defense attorney, Amit Hadad, in Case 1000, relating to the luxury gifts the former prime minister and his family received and quid pro quos Netanyahu is accused of having provided in return.

The indictment against Netanyahu in Case 1000 charges the former prime minister with fraud and breach of trust for accepting luxury gifts from Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer worth NIS 691,776 (about $200,000) and for intervening on behalf of Milchan when he was seeking a US visa renewal and assisting him with regulatory benefits.

During the session, the defense presented several WhatsApp messages displaying warm correspondence between Sara Netanyahu and Klein, including birthday wishes from the former premier’s wife, and holiday greetings over Passover in 2015.

However, Klein denied that the two were ever friends.

“I saw the testimony of Sara Netanyahu, saying that I stole — this is not friendship. Arnon said to me that if I didn’t give the gifts, I wouldn’t be her friend, and if she discovered I was Mizrahi, she wouldn’t be my friend at all,” Hadas claimed.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Lawyer Amit Hadad arrives for a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, July 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hadas said that during Passover 2015, she decided to send a bottle of champagne to the Netanyahus, the only occasion she initiated such a gesture.

The prosecution also persisted in its attempts to undermine the witness during the session, arguing that Klein received preferential treatment during the investigation of the case.

Hadad presented a quote from the interrogation, in which she was told by interrogators: “You are completely protected with us.”

In response, Klein emphasized: “Protected in terms of the materials vis-à-vis Arnon. This is my workplace; I was not allowed to tell Arnon that I was part of a police investigation. I thought you were asking me if I am protected like a states witness.”

During the session, a close family friend of Klein’s answered a question asked of her during the examination, and was removed from the courtroom.

“This is very serious, what just happened,” the judge told the man, who was subsequently barred from the courtroom.

Klein testified that when Milchan was called in for questioning by police, he appeared frightened, and asked her to coordinate a date for his interrogation. However, Klein did not inform her former boss that she too had been interrogated.

Melco Crown Entertainment co-chairman James Packer speaks during a news conference of the Studio City project in Macau, October 27, 2015. (Kin Cheung/AP)

Furthermore, Hadad showed a video of Klein under interrogation, when investigators asked her to call Packer to travel to Israel to give testimony.

“I feel that Packer is mad at me that I am on your side and not his side,” Hadas said in the video.

She clarified in court that she was not on the side of the investigators, but feared Packer would think that way, adding that if he came to Israel, “that would be good, and if not, all good too.”

Klein said she honored the interrogators’ request and told Packer specifically that the authorities wanted him to come over.

During Klein’s cross-examination on Tuesday, she denied claims by the defense that she had hidden evidence, that she had exaggerated gifts to the Netanyahu family, and that such presents were given out of genuine friendship rather than any quid pro quo.

Klein’s testimony, which began last week, has mostly revolved around the various gifts she helped arrange for the Netanyahus, as well as the former premier’s alleged willingness to intervene on behalf of Milchan, including when he tried to renew his US visa.

Along with Case 1000, Netanyahu faces fraud and breach of trust charges in two other cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed without evidence that the charges were fabricated and part of a bid by the state prosecution and political rivals to force him from office.

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