Hadas Klein, a key prosecution witness in Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, described in the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday how her boss, Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, requested and obtained former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s help in securing a long-term US visa.
In her testimony, Klein said that Netanyahu and his staff connected Milchan to then-US secretary of state John Kerry and he eventually managed to obtain the 10-year visa.
Klein — testifying in a case involving allegedly illicit gifts received by the ex-premier from Milchan — said she was enlisted to help Milchan attempt to renew his visa in December 2013 after the producer was rejected during a meeting with US officials.
“He asked me to reach out to Dan Shapiro, [then] US ambassador to Israel, but [Shapiro] didn’t answer. So he asked me to reach Netanyahu.” She said she had so many calls with Netanyahu aide Ari Harow that when investigators showed her the call log she was “shocked.”
Netanyahu called her back in the middle of the night and told her, “What is Milchan worried about? It’ll be taken care of.”
Soon after, she said, “I got a call from Shapiro, or his aide, and they told me the visa was approved and I should come to the embassy to get it.”
When Milchan, who has admitted to working for Israel’s spy agency in the past, fumed that the visa was only good for a year, Netanyahu put her in touch with Kerry, and Milchan soon secured a 10-year pass.
She described how Milchan had requested that Netanyahu introduce him to Kerry, eventually leading the US secretary of state to call Milchan directly. “One day I got a phone call from abroad, it was John Kerry calling me himself,” she said. Milchan was sleeping at the time, but eventually Klein connected the two by phone.
“At a certain stage in 2014, Arnon got the 10-year visa he wanted,” said Klein.
Milchan is an Israeli citizen and never obtained US citizenship despite residing in Los Angeles for long periods of time.
He had been accustomed to receiving 10-year residency visas, but in 2013 — when there was one year left on his current visa — he became worried that it would not be renewed because of US concerns about his past in the Israeli security services.
“He [Milchan] nagged, mostly Netanyahu and his staff. They went above and beyond to help,” testified Klein.
Case 1000 revolves around allegations that Netanyahu and his family received expensive gifts illicitly from Milchan and Australian media scion James Packer, whom Klein also assisted. Milchan is suspected of giving the gifts in exchange for help with the visa and other benefits.
Klein’s testimony on Wednesday, her second day on the witness stand, appeared to strongly support the prosecution’s claims that Netanyahu assisted Milchan in a quid pro quo due to the latter’s ongoing supply of luxury goods — including cigars, champagne and jewelry — to the premier and his wife, Sara. It also called into question Netanyahu’s defense in Case 1000 that he was unaware his wife was receiving gifts from his billionaire associates Milchan and James Packer.
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 Packer worth NIS 691,776 and for intervening with Milchan’s US visa renewal requests and assisting him with regulatory benefits.
The goods were provided between 2011 and 2016, according to the indictment.
Klein also detailed two incidents demonstrating Netanyahu’s awareness of the luxury gifts Sara was receiving from Milchan.
In one incident described by Klein, Sara had made a specific request, which was not detailed, but which Klein had declined to fulfil.
Sara phoned Klein and shouted at her angrily for having refused to deliver the item. Two hours later, Netanyahu himself phoned Klein and she said she told him how upset she had been by Sara’s treatment of her, adding “I don’t work for your wife.”
During the call, Netanyahu told her that providing his wife Sara with luxury goods was nevertheless legal, Klein testified.
On another occasion, Klein related that Milchan had told her that Netanyahu had called him directly to request he buy Sara a necklace and a ring with precious gems.
“Two months go by, and one day she asks if I can come to Caesarea, since Netanyahu approved the purchase. I told Milchan and he said there’s no choice.”
Klein bought the requested jewelry, for some $2,000, she testified.
The witness also told the court how Netanyahu, when staying at his Caesarea home, would go swimming every day in Packer’s pool.
On one occasion, Packer’s head of household Shani Koskas was told that Netanyahu was coming over, and she got in touch with Klein to tell her.
The court was then shown screen shots of the WhatsApp conversation on Klein’s phone between her and Koskas when Netanyahu was on his way.
Wrote Klein: “Put four bottles [of champagne] in a black bag and close them up. Put the bag next to the door by the security guard. She [Sara Netanyahu] will come and get it. I put a bag there. Just put [the bottles] in and tie it up well so no one sees.”
Koskas sent Klein a picture after she had done as instructed, although the bags still appeared to be open.
Klein replied: “Just tie it up, please. She [Sara] is scared to death.”
During her first day of testimony on Tuesday, Klein told the court that after she expressed concern to Sara that someone would see the constant delivery of champagne crates, the prime minister’s wife gave “clear instructions that they [the crates] be put in closed black bags. It came from Sara.”
When asked on Wednesday by one of the attorneys for the prosecution whether or not Netanyahu knew about these gifts, Klein’s reply indicated that the former premier was fully aware.
“Netanyahu would tell me what to do when the drivers would load the trunk [with the champagne crates]… Jonathan [Milchan’s driver] also told me that he brought champagne to the Netanyahus’ house and that Netanyahu would open [the door]. I know that we took over whole crates when Netanyahu was there,” said Klein.
In contrast, she said, Prime Minister Yair Lapid refused to receive a bouquet of flowers that Milchan had sent over to his home when he was appointed finance minister in 2013. Another time, Milchan accidentally left headphones at Lapid’s home, and, according to Klein, Lapid insisted he send over a driver to get them as he didn’t want even a hint of a gift.
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.