Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his family are vacationing on a Hawaiian island owned almost wholly by Jewish-American billionaire Larry Ellison, a prosecution witness in the ex-premier’s criminal cases.
Quoting unnamed sources, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Friday that the Netanyahus continued on to Hawaii after flying to San Francisco for a two-week vacation in the United States.
Ellison, the cofounder and chairman of Oracle Corporation, purchased 98 percent of Lanai in 2012 for a reported $300 million.
A response sent to the newspaper on Netanyahu’s behalf insisted his family was covering the cost of the trip.
“There is no prohibition on former prime minister Netanyahu meeting with a witness. The list of witnesses includes hundreds of people, including his lawyers and members of his party, with who he is in constant contact,” the statement said.
Netanyahu is on trial for charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He denies wrongdoing.
Ellison is one of several hundred prosecution witnesses in Netanyahu’s corruption trial. His name reportedly came up in two of the cases and a report last year said he lobbied and convinced Israeli mogul Arnon Milchan to drop his lawyer so Netanyahu could hire him.
Netanyahu and his family flew abroad to vacation last week despite the Health Ministry and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urging Israelis to avoid non-essential overseas travel amid surging COVID-19 cases in Israel and elsewhere. Officials have also warned of new coronavirus variants entering the country.
Under current Health Ministry guidelines, the Netanyahus will be required to quarantine for a week upon returning.
Also Friday, Channel 12 news revealed that Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli — whose ministry has a leading role in the coronavirus policies at Ben Gurion Airport — also traveled to America.
The unsourced report said Michaeli’s staff and Labor party members tried unsuccessfully to convince her to reconsider, saying the trip will likely get negative coverage and be seen as belittling the public.
“The minister will comply with all necessary coronavirus guidelines,” her office said in response.
After facing public criticism, Michael revealed her trip was not a vacation but was undertaken for the purpose of meeting her first child, newly born through surrogacy.
Michaeli will also have to self-isolate when she gets back to the country, as nearly all travelers do as part of stricter quarantine rules that took effect this week.