In recordings of discussions Binyamin Netanyahu had with interrogators on the charges against him in Case 1000, the prime minister said that police had “dumped all the bills for cigarettes and champagne purchased by Arnon Milchin on me, while he was actually giving them out to many others,” including Yair Lapid and the late Shimon Peres. “You people are not serious,” Netanyahu is heard saying to investigators. “I absolutely bought my own cigars.”
The recordings were broadcast on Channel 12, and portray a back-and-forth on the source of cigars Netanyahu smoked during the period under investigation. The questioning relates to Case 1000, in which Netanyahu was accused of accepting extravagant gifts from millionaire Arnon Milchin, mostly cigars and champagne. Based on recommendations by police, he will be charged with breach of trust if charges are brought against him.
Netanyahu said that Milchin was very generous with cigars and champagne. “Reporters, politicians would come to him and get cigars. You are piling all of Milchin’s bills on me; he bought cigars for many others.” Among the beneficiaries of Milchin’s largesse were numerous politicians, Netanyahu said. “No one who visited Arnon ever saw him without a glass of champagne in his hand. Anyone who ever met him will tell you so. Ask ‘Buzi’ [former Labor Party head Yitzchak Herzog] and Tzippy [Livni], they know what he gave them and others.”
Netanyahu said that “Milchin gives cigars to his friends. He gave cigars to Yair Lapid, he is a ‘mobile pushcart’ of cigars” which he distributes freely. He is also very generous with cases of champagne, Netanyahu said, and Shimon Peres “got an ocean of champagne from him.” As far as Netanyahu’s cigar consumption was concerned, the large majority was paid for by him out of pocket.
Responding to the recordings, Netanyahu’s office said that the recordings were clear, but that Channel 12 “is using the material as part of its ‘anyone but Netanyahu’ campaign. We have very clear testimony from drivers for the prime minister, who said that he would give them money to buy cigars, or return them the money if they laid it out. Natan Eshel, former Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister, testified that he laid out tens of thousands of shekels for cigars, and got all his money back.”
Yair Lapid’s office said in response that Netanyahu “needs to understand that lying to police is a crime. Lapid never received anything from Arnon Milchin. The lie is absurd, especially given that Lapid quit smoking long before he entered politics. It’s time for Netanyahu to deal with his legal issues and let someone capable deal with the issues that are crushing the Israeli middle class.”