Hadas Klein, the latest witness in the corruption trial of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, may come from a central casting.
In two days of spellbinding testimonies, Klein, 57 — slender, expressive and confident, and sporting a neat bob — emerged as exactly what she is: a top-notch executive assistant who witnessed extraordinary events. .
About halfway through Wednesday’s recitation, his testimony took a turn that could have been taken by a Mafia court. Klein, aide-de-camp to Arnon Milchan, the Hollywood producer and Netanyahu’s close friend of thirty years, described his efforts to conceal the identity of the recipient of his purchases from “Cookie”, the owner of a tony cigar shop in Tel Aviv’s posh suburb of Herzliya.
“Cookie is her name,” wanted to know who enjoyed the Cuban cigars she bought him for about $27,328 a year.
“I paid for everything with my personal credit card because I was trying to protect Netanyahu. I didn’t want to put it on Arnon’s credit card to protect him. Cookie never gave us a discount, but he gave us Dominican cigars as a gift… I accepted them and asked Arnon about it, and he said, “Sure, why not? And of course, nothing was left for us. We also forwarded the gifts to Mr. Netanyahu.
Cookie pressed her. “Cookie told me that only a very small club of people in the country consume this length and diameter of cigar, so who is it?”
Two Monte Christo cigars cost $630, she recalls. Netanyahu liked to dip them in Cointreau before indulging in a smoke, she said.
But Klein brought more than his memories. A meticulous accountant, she provided investigators and the court with all receipts, invoices and bank transfers related to these purchases and many others. His text messages relating to the purchases and their disposal were ruthlessly projected onto a screen in Judge Rivka Feldman-Freidman’s small courtroom.
Klein was the central cog in a fully-fledged “well-organized mechanism” of illegal demands for Netanyahu’s assets from wealthy “friends” and the distribution of the resulting “gifts” that Israeli prosecutors consider bribery.
Like Cassidy Hutchinson, Klein witnessed the Netanyahu’s most intimate behavior. Like Hutchinson, she was overlooked by those in power. And like Hutchinson, she presented her testimony as an act of patriotism.
“I am fulfilling my obligations as a citizen of this country,” she told reporters in the hallway, surrounded by police bodyguards. “I was asked to testify, and that’s what I’m doing. I do what would have made my parents proud.
During her testimony, which also included unflattering portrayals of Milchan, Klein worried about the possibility of losing her job.
Klein is different from previous celebrity witnesses in Netanyahu’s trial, in which he faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate criminal cases that somehow involve another, allegations that he is abusing his position for personal gain. .
Nir Hefetz, the former head of Netanyahu’s fearsome communications boutique, and Shlomo Filber, the former director general of Israel’s Communications Ministry under Netanyahu, were engaging but reluctant witnesses who only testified for the state in the framework of plea agreements they hope to maintain. of criminal prosecution.
Hefetz testified that “in all things media, [Netanyahu] is much more than a control freak… Netanyahu spends at least as much of his time on the media as he spends on security issues.
Echoing Netanyahu, Filber called the trial a “witch hunt” and half-heartedly described receiving direct orders from the prime minister, who demanded regulations be “loosened” for Shaul Elovitch, a crony who ran the biggest Israel’s communications conglomerate to the tune of hundreds of millions. of dollars.
“The cigars were for Netanyahu.”
Klein, on the other hand, testified voluntarily, even with what appeared to be relief, and is not suspected of any crime.
She described Netanyahu’s repeated calls on his cellphone, saying he had received clearance from “legal counsel” for the stream of gifts he demanded for his wife. “You don’t understand,” the Prime Minister told his friend’s assistant. “She only gets mad because the media kills. Give her everything she wants. Everything is allowed, I checked. Don’t spill his blood like the media does.
Klein described a huge staff apparatus by which the Netanyahus appropriated an unlimited flow of luxuries from Milchan, who complained about it, telling Klein “we have no choice. There’s no other way with them,” and Packer, whom she described as a vulnerable Netanyahu groupie.
Milchan, she said, “enjoyed the closeness to power. He liked to be able to say he was friends with the Prime Minister’, but was a disgruntled participant in the scheme to hide cases of Dom Pérignon rosé champagne in coolers.
In March 2016, Klein recalls, when she returned home from a private trip to Cuba — her 50th birthday celebration — a furious Netanyahu allegedly complained that she had only bought her Cohiba 54 cigars, not her favorites. , the 56th Cohiba. “You couldn’t get them anywhere,” she said. “There just weren’t any.”
The Netanyahus spoke to him in code, referring to the cigars as “leaves” and the champagne as “rosé,” but were blunt and specific on other requests, Klein claimed. She said Sara Netanyahu’s request for a specific gold ring and necklace from a fashionable Tel Aviv jeweler was passed to Klein following a conference call in which Milchan, who is expected to testify later in the trial, obtained explicit permission from the Prime Minister.
Klein’s testimony was full of detail and titillating pearls. Unlike Netanyahu, she described Yair Lapid, Israel’s current caretaker prime minister – Netanyahu’s rival in the upcoming 2022 elections – refusing delivery of a bouquet sent by Milchan when he was named finance minister in 2013. headphones at Lapid, “Arnon told me to just tell him to leave them there. Yair called me and said, ‘No way. Send the driver to pick it up.
She recounted memories of when Hugh Jackman allegedly met Netanyahu, which became another opportunity for the prime minister to run off with cigars. Judge Moshe Baram, a member of the three-judge panel handling the case, asked Klein how she knew “the cigars weren’t for the actor?”
Klein replied, “Because I was there. The cigars were for Netanyahu.