Speed Reads

looking a gift horse into the mouth

Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly demanded friends provide thousands of dollars of champagne and cigars on command

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife apparently demanded gifts of champagne and cigars from two businessmen and their personal aides, Haaretz reported Tuesday. Hadas Klein, an aide to Israeli-American filmmaker Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer, is reported to have told Israeli police investigators that "there was an understanding that Arnon had to supply the Netanyahus with whatever they want."

Netanyahu was named in August as a suspect in two corruption investigations and has been interviewed by investigators five times. The first case, known as Case 1,000, deals with improper gifts; the second, Case 2,000, alleges that Netanyahu arranged financial benefits in exchange for positive press coverage.

Klein's testimony reportedly bolsters investigators' claims for Case 1,000, which The Guardian said has been dubbed "the gifts affair." Previously, a lawyer for the prime minister defended the Netanyahus' conduct by saying that "there is no ban on receiving cigars as a gift." Klein's statements to investigators, however, insinuate that the Netanyahus were not passive recipients of gifts but rather actively solicited between 650,000 and 700,000 shekels' worth of champagne and cigars, a haul worth roughly $180,000 to $200,000.

Israeli police apparently believe that they have enough damning information to bring corruption charges against the prime minister. Local media had previously reported that the prime minister is a prolific smoker who consumes tens of thousands of shekels' worth of gifted cigars a month, while his wife regularly drinks bottles of pink champagne worth hundreds of shekels each. Netanyahu has said the probes "will produce nothing because there was nothing," The Guardian notes.

Netanyahu has served Israel's longest consecutive term as prime minister and is said to have a "phenomenal relationship" with President Trump.