Key witness in Netanyahu trial ends testimony, condemns ‘cruelty’ of her detractors

Hadas Klein described luxury gifts she delivered to Netanyahus during past several months in courtroom; lashes members of public who ‘chose to harm and besmirch’ her during trial

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Hadas Klein arrives at a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on September 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Hadas Klein arrives at a court hearing in the trial against former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the District Court in Jerusalem on September 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A key witness in the corruption trial of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu wrapped up her testimony on Wednesday by further describing luxury gifts she helped deliver to Netanyahu and his family.

The witness, Hadas Klein, was a personal assistant to Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. She is a key witness for the prosecution in the so-called Case 1000, which revolves around luxury gifts the former prime minister and his family received and quid pro quos Netanyahu is accused of having provided in return.

Klein has detailed gifts to the Netanyahus during her testimony, which began months ago, including premium cigars, bottles of champagne and a diamond-studded bracelet. The defense has sought to downplay her the size of the gifts and other parts of her testimony, and the prosecution on Wednesday aimed to reinforce her account in her final courtroom appearance.

Klein was visibly emotional following the hearing, as she has been on several occasions during her testimony, and said outside of the courtroom that she had been exposed to the “cruelty” of some Israelis who objected to what she had told the court.

Wednesday’s hearing was dedicated to reviewing questioning by the prosecution, following the completion of the defense’s cross-examination on Tuesday.

One of the key issues the prosecution sought to address on Wednesday was Klein’s credibility as a reliable witness.

Defense attorney Amit Hadad had sought to undermine her credibility in several ways during his cross-examination, including her assertion that the majority of high-end cigars she had purchased on behalf of her boss Hollywood producer and businessman Arnon Milchan in the period in question had been for Netanyahu.

But attorney for the prosecution Alon Gildin read aloud for the court an account to the police from Milchan’s driver Yonatan Hasson in which he stated that “99 percent” of the cigars had been purchased for Netanyahu.

Arnon Milchan (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in the Knesset, on March 28, 2005. (Flash90/ File)

“What Yonatan said, which you read now, that’s what I remember. That’s what I said, that the majority of cigars were bought for Mr. Netanyahu,” Klein said.

Following her final testimony, Klein had some sharp words about her detractors who attacked her during her time in court.

In August, journalist Eli Zipori photographed Klein’s home in Herzliya and tweeted the picture, leading Klein to file a complaint with the police against him for harassment.

“I discovered the beautiful face of the Jewish people but also sadly the cruel face. A small group of violent people who don’t know me or my family chose to harm and besmirch me,” she said.

“I did what should be done” she said, adding that she had fulfilled her civic duty by testifying.

Klein’s testimony began in July and forms a key part of the case against Netanyahu.

The indictment in Case 1000 against the former prime minister accuses Netanyahu of violating conflict of interest laws when he provided Milchan with assistance in renewing his long-term US residency visa. It alleges that this — alongside Milchan’s supply of an estimated NIS 700,000 ($205,000) worth of cigars, champagne, jewelry and other luxury items to Netanyahu and his wife — constituted fraud and breach of trust.

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives to a court hearing at the regional labor court in Jerusalem, in the case of Shira Raban, a former employee at the Prime Minister’s Residence, December 23, 2019. (Yonatan SIndel/FLASH90)

Klein’s explosive initial testimony laid out the extent of the gifts that were given to and requested by Netanyahu and his wife Sara.

During her testimony, Klein said that she had personally delivered champagne, cigars and jewelry to the Netanyahus, and described in detail the constant pressure and demands made by the couple for such items.

She also described how Milchan had managed to obtain a ten-year US visa in 2013, and how Netanyahu had set up a phone call between the businessman and then US secretary of state John Kerry to help obtain the long-term visa.

Netanyahu’s defense team sought to poke holes in Klein’s narrative by claiming that the former prime minister and his wife had a genuine friendship with Milchan, who gave them gifts out of a sense of friendship and not in order to receive favors. The defense also said the actual amount of champagne and cigars given to Netanyahu was less than Klein claimed.

The defense also pointed out during cross-examination that the gifts for Netanyahu began before he became prime minister in 2009, and that on at least one occasion Sara Netanyahu had bought an apparently valuable gift for Milchan’s wife Amanda, demonstrating that the relationship was reciprocal.

Netanyahu’s defense lawyers said some police conduct during the investigation was problematic, highlighting an incident in which Klein met officers in an underground parking lot and gave them documents, even though they didn’t have a search warrant.

Some minor aspects of Klein’s testimony did not stand up to scrutiny, but those contradictions were marginal.

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 claims that the charges were fabricated in an effort by the state prosecution, police, media and political rivals to force him from office.

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