Israel’s Prime Minister faces an official hearing on serious criminal indictments later this year - one with a link to an Oscar winning Hollywood producer - that could force his early resignation
Arnon Milchan and Bibi Netanyahu in happier times. These days they don't speak.
Now that Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has been narrowly re-elected, on July 16th he’s stands to become the longest-tenured Prime Minister in Israeli history, passing founder Ben Gurion, who served 13 years and 127 days.
However, there is no assurance Netanyahu will serve out a full term, and strong indications that he may not. Netanyahu is facing three criminal indictments in Israel, which could lead to his forced resignation if he is convicted.
After more than two years of investigations and discussion, the Israeli Attorney General announced that there will be a hearing later this year to consider the indictments, and to allow the Prime Minister to mount a defense.
There is a Hollywood connection. One of the indictments, what has become known as the “gifting” scandal in Israel, links directly to prominent, Oscar winning Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan (credits include Pretty Woman, 12 Years A Slave, Fight Club and over 120 other major movies).
Academy Award winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg surround producer Arnon Milchan on Oscar night 2016 when they were all feeling like winners.
During a period of over at least six years, beginning around 2012, Milchan gave Netanyahu and his family thousands of dollars-worth of expensive Cuban cigars, pink champagne and much more on a regular basis, at the demand of Netanyahu and this third wife Sara, who for years has been faced accusations of extravagant spending.
Netanyahu says it was just a friend gifting a friend, and that the whole thing is a political “witch hunt” pushed by his enemies.
However, during an intense investigation, Milchan admitted he felt pressured to give more and more, even bringing in Australian billionaire James Packer to help pay for the goods and services.
Australian billionaire and casino mogul James Packer with Milchan.
Milchan and possibly Packer are now expected to be among the witnesses for the prosecution at Netanyahu’s hearing on the criminal allegations.
So even though the election is over, the drama around “Bibi” continues.
What happens matters in the U.S. in Israel, and elsewhere. Netanyahu has become President Donald Trump’s close friend and ally, as both share similar authoritarian attitudes and strong pro-business and pro-military views.
On the two occasions in the past when a sitting Prime Minister was indicted, that person immediately resigned. Netanyahu says he will not resign if he is indicted. However, he would be forced to resign if convicted. His ouster would change everything in the volatile Middle East, and have a big impact in Washington, D.C.
To get the inside story on what happened with Netanyahu and Milchan, I tapped into a wide range of sources. If you want to be ready for what is coming next, read my recent story in Los Angeles Magazine by clicking here. Get the inside story on the Netanyahu-Hollywood connection and how it has blown up in his face.
For the latest story, I set the scene at Milchan’s ocean-side mansion in Malibu in 2014 where the producer has gathered the cream of Hollywood, from Brad Pitt and Barbra Streisand to director James Cameron, to hear Netanyahu speak about Israel, the then pending U.S. nuclear treaty with Iran, which he strongly opposed.
At the March 2014 party for Bibi Netyanhu thrown at the Malibu home of Arnon Milchan, from left, Yair Netanyahu (son), Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu (wife), actress Kate Hudson (a guest that evening) and Milchan
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