A former close adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told police investigators that the premier’s son once interrupted an official meeting to complain that an Israeli telecommunications tycoon was not holding up his end of an allegedly illegal arrangement with the prime minister.
Nir Hefetz, who was the Netanyahu family’s most trusted spokesman, turned state’s witness last year in a series of corruption investigations implicating the prime minister.
One of the probes Hefetz provided testimony in is Case 4000, which involves suspicions Netanyahu agreed to advance regulation financially benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
According to a Channel 13 report Sunday, Hefetz said Yair Netanyahu burst into a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Residence to scream that Elovitch “isn’t providing the goods, despite all the benefits he received” from the premier.
Hefetz was quoted as saying that Yair Netanyahu continued to yell until Yossi Cohen, his lawyer, got up and escorted him out of the room.
The report said that Yair Netanyahu, who was questioned in the case, denied the incident to police investigators.
“It takes Yossi Cohen, that cripple, 10 minutes to get up. Does it seem likely to you that he could remove me from a room?” he was reported to say.
Cohen, who also represents the prime minister’s wife Sara, was injured during his military service.
Yair Netanyahu denied the report and on Twitter called Channel 13 reporter Aviad Glickman, with whom he has a running feud, an “owl.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has recommended that Netanyahu face charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in Case 4000, pending a hearing. He also said he intends to charge Netanyahu, who has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, with fraud and breach of trust in two other cases.
Also Sunday, Channel 12 news published transcripts of Hefetz’s testimony in Case 1000, which involves suspicions Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, accepted gifts from wealthy benefactors — namely Israeli-born Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan — in exchange for favors.
The network reported Hefetz testified that Milchan had told him Netanyahu would arrange for the Mossad intelligence service to take him and Indian businessmen Ratan Tata by helicopter to meet with the Jordanian king. Under discussion was the planned establishment of a free trade zone near the Jordan-Israel border that could have personally benefited Milchan.
A translation of the transcript, as reported by Channel 12, was as follows:
Investigator: Was there anyone else with him [Milchan]?
Hefetz: No, he was alone. He came alone and told me in detail, [he was] really bragging… that Bibi [Netanyahu is arranging for the helicopter for him to fly over the border.
Did you enter, did you join the meeting?
No, I was outside and he [Milchan] went in, came out, went in, came out and then he came out content because he said it [the helicopter] was arranged.
Regarding the project, did Milchan mention in general about its business potential?
He talked about hundreds of millions of dollars or euros.
The project in question was a 2009 proposal for Tata Motors, which includes the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, to build a low-volume automotive assembly plant in the West Bank intended to provide skilled jobs to Palestinians. The estimated $250 million plan, which was proposed as part of an Israeli-Jordanian peace initiative, was set to include a free trade corridor to Haifa to offset higher logistic costs in Israel, the company said.
“The prime minister is suspected of trying to push the deal at the request of Milchan, against the opinion of officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry,” police said in their recommendation that Netanyahu stand trial in the case.
Last week 12, Channel 12 published transcripts of Netanyahu being interrogated about arranging a helicopter for Milchan, a session in which he apparently struggled to answer police’s questions and repeated that he didn’t remember.
Responding to Sunday’s reports, Netanyahu branded them “fake news” and lashed out at Glickman and Channel 12’s Guy Peleg.
“Guy Peleg and Aviad Glickman, spokesmen for the left who pretend to be journalists, simultaneously published this evening fake news stories from the mouth of a state’s witness who sold any lie in order to save himself from his crimes,” he wrote on Twitter.
The prime minister charged that Glickman had it out for his son for filing a police complaint against him, while Peleg had an ax to grind because the younger Netanyahu had called him “dumbo.”
“Their campaign is nonsense,” Netanyahu said. “The consideration of the state is the only interest I have in mind — and not the benefit of any man.”
The prime minister’s indictment is pending a hearing with Mandelblit, the attorney general, that is scheduled for October 2-3. He denies any wrongdoing in all cases and says he is the victim of a political witch hunt.