Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — former Israeli spy and current head of New Regency films — gave illicit bribes accepted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli police declared Tuesday night in a shock announcement. They will recommend both men, as well as an Israeli publishing tycoon, be officially charged with bribery.
Tuesday’s announcement offered the latest twist in a multi-year scandal that has plagued Israel’s right-wing prime minister. Its plot reads like one of Milchan’s own films, centering around hush-hush gifts of expensive pink champagne, thousand-dollar cigars and face time with Hollywood elite in exchange for tax breaks worth billions of shekels. At the heart of the so-called Case 1000 was the question of whether a high-placed Hollywood executive — later revealed to be Milchan — lavished Netanyahu and his wife Sara with expensive gifts and A-list access in exchange for political favors.
On Tuesday night, police answered that question, potentially signaling the end of Netanyahu’s decades of power and making it all but inevitable that Milchan will be charged and later tried for corruption. Among the perks that Milchan is believed to have received in exchange for his generous gifts to Netanyahu and cronies is a 2008 tax exemption passed by the Knesset, nicknamed “Milchan’s Law” by the Israeli press,which changed the Israeli tax code to significantly benefit wealthy Israelis who have left the country and years later chose to return.
Yair Lapid, a popular left-wing politician in Israel who was once considered a frontrunner for the position of prime minister, was also revealed by the police announcement to be a key witness in Case 1000. Lapid allegedly witnessed an illicit deal between Milchan and Netanyahu.
According to the police, the gifts from Milchan were worth more than $1 million shekels ($283,000).
A recommendation for indictment is not legally binding; for charges to become official, they will have to be approved by Israel’s attorney general, a process which will take time. But the announcement, which comes on the heels of two years of investigations on the part of the Israel Police, will be followed in a few days by a detailed explanation from Israel’s State Prosecution. That explanation will lay out individual proposed charges and make the fate of Milchan and Netanyahu, as well as Arnon Mozes, the publisher intertwined in Case 2000 — Case 1000’s sister corruption case against the prime minister — much more clear.
Netanyahu, who has taken to Facebook multiple times in the past few days to issue forceful statements against the police, made a public address on Tuesday night within minutes of the police’s announcement. Declaring the investigation to be “slander,” he accused the police of attempting to oust him from power, and he insisted both on his innocence and that he has no plans to step down from his post.
“This time things will end without anything,” he said. “These recommendations have no place in a democratic state.”