Reports of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu having received gifts of luxury cigars from a billionaire friend has sparked a mini-trend in a country where the market for such items has been negligible until now.
Stories that Netanyahu has been burning up hundreds of thousands of shekels a year worth of the best cigars from Israeli tycoon Arnon Milchan has created an interest.
“People are coming in all the time asking about Bibi’s cigars now,” Tal Mousseri, owner of The Republica Tobacco Lounge in Sarona Market, told The Jerusalem Post. “They are asking what Bibi is smoking, but you know the myth that everyone that smokes dresses in suits is false. There are people from all sectors of Israel.”
There is little if any ignominy attached to cigar-smoking as a result of its connection to suspicions of prime ministerial wrongdoing, no reason for Israelis to shun it.
As the prime minister’s attorney Yaakov Weinroth said on Friday, “Any reasonable person knows that someone bringing their friend cigars is not a criminal offense.”
The gifts given over the course of seven to eight years included such labels as Cuban Montecristos, Cohiba Sigla Vs and Trinidads, according to a media report.
Each sells for several hundred shekels, but Mousseri maintains they’re paying for the name brand; and equally good cigars can be had for around 100 shekels.
Channel 2 claimed that Netanyahu smokes NIS 15,000 to 20,000 worth of cigars every month, but according Mousseri, that would mean 50 to 100 cigars a month, considered a feat even for an admirer of Winston Churchill, like Netanyahu.
“It would be really hard to achieve that level of smoking each month,” said Mousseri.
“He is a prime minister; he does have to work sometime.”