Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his derision of the criminal investigations against him to the White House on Monday, ridiculing the allegations that he had received illicit gifts of champagne and cigars as he told President Donald Trump that he’d brought him a case of wine as a gift.
In comments made immediately after Trump signed a proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Netanyahu said that he had brought the president a case “of the finest wine” from Israel’s northern region.
However, since Trump, who doesn’t drink alcohol, is “not a great wine drinker,” the prime minister asked if he could give the wine to the White House staff instead.
“I hope they don’t open an investigation about this,” he then quipped as he embraced the US president.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has claimed a long-term and wide-ranging illicit relationship between the prime minister and the Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in what is known as Case 1000, over which Netanyahu is facing prosecution, pending a hearing, for fraud and breach of trust. As in two other criminal cases against him, the prime minister denies any wrongdoing.
At the Netanyahus’ request, Mandelblit charges, Milchan provided “a supply line” of “boxes of cigars,” and “crates of champagne” for years to Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, the state prosecution alleges. In 2016, Milchan also provided jewelry to Sara Netanyahu, at her request and with the prime minister’s knowledge. Along with cigars and champagne supplied in a similar fashion by Australian businessman James Packer, the value of these consignments allegedly totaled some $200,000.
In return, among other matters, the prime minister allegedly sought, on Milchan’s behalf, to widen the provisions of a controversial tax exemption law that remains inexplicably on Israel’s books despite Israel’s tax authorities’ concern that it facilitates money laundering and acted to advance Milchan’s economic interests.
If pundits, or even investigators, were indeed looking for a quid pro quo in Netanyahu’s gift of wine to Trump, they could perhaps have found one in the pen used by the president to sign the declaration which he gave the the prime minister after the signing.