Tuesday marks the third day of businessman Arnon Milchan’s testimony in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial.
Taking the witness stand remotely in Brighton, UK, Milchan confirms that he acted at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to facilitate an agreement between warring newspapers, in the hopes of improving coverage in one them of the prime minister and his wife.
Milchan tells prosecutors that “the prime minister and the prime minister’s wife,” Sara, asked him to leverage his personal relationships with Yedioth Ahronoth proprietor Arnon Mozes and late Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson to find a deal.
“Part of the deal was not to hurt the prime minister and his wife,” Milchan says of the 2009 effort. He adds that Mozes believed at the time that if Yedioth Ahronoth sufficiently attacked Netanyahu, that the premier would push Adelson to come to a deal to limit the circulation of his free daily, which ate into Mozes’s profits.
“Every time that I got a negative answer in negotiations I informed Netanyahu,” he says, of the prime minister’s involvement.
The never-finalized deal forms the basis of the prosecution’s Case 2000 against Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust.
When asked by the prosecutor as to why he was involved, he answered: “I was involved because I was close to the prime minister and his wife. It was important to me that they not go through the suffering they claim they are going through from Noni [Arnon Mozes], and the only way to do so was through Israel Hayom, to reverse the balance of threats,” he said.
The Hollywood producer is on the stand primarily to testify, in Case 1000, that he provided expensive gifts to the Netanyahu family, which the state alleges was in exchange for several requests Milchan made related to help with his expiring US visa and extending tax breaks for Israeli citizens who return from abroad.