Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to confirm during a police interrogation if he provided an Israeli military helicopter to benefit his billionaire friend, according to transcripts released Monday.
As the date of Netanyahu's pre indictment hearing nears, on corruption charges in case 1000, which may include receiving bribes amounting to NIS1 million in gifts from wealthy benefactors Arnon Milchan and James Packer, in exchange for favors.
The gifts allegedly included a steady stream of Cuban cigars and champagne as well as jewels. Netanyahu has denied the allegations.
Milchan's personal assistant has testified to the gifts being delivered to the prime minister and his wife. Portions of her testimony became public Sunday on Israel's Channel 12 and refer to people working for the prime minister having to pay for expensive cigars for Netanyahu and not being reimbursed. These allegations have been denied by the prime minister and his loyalists, including those mentioned in the testimony.
A transcript released Monday purports to be a record of an interrogation into an occasion where Netanyahu allegedly arranged a military chopper to transport Milchan and Indian industrialist Ratan Tata to Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah II, regarding the planned construction of a joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian inexpensive car industry.
The interrogation was conducted by National Fraud Unit commander, Brigadier General Koresh Bar Nur.
Bar Nur: Did you ask for a chopper to take Milchan to Jordan?
Netanyahu: I don't remember, possibly, I don't remember.
Bar Nur: Why?
Netanyahu: It's possible
Bar Nur: Did you give your permission to the military? To Mossad?
Netanyahu: It's entirely possible, possibly.
Bar Nur: Is that acceptable?
Netanyahu: Why not? Why not?
Bar Nur: Is that acceptable to arrange a state-owned helicopter?
Netanyahu: First of all, there were cases, there are such cases and the Air Force, what are you talking about?
Bar Nur: What? For private businesspeople?
Netanyahu: Tell me are you talking to me? People come here, contribute to the country, they get tours.
Bar Nur: But they were not here to contribute.
Netanyahu: They were here to contribute.
Bar Nur: Are you in the habit of arranging helicopters?
Netanyahu: Hold on, hold on. I see it as... Listen...
Bar Nur tried to get Netanyahu to remember a specific time he arranged a helicopter for other visiting businessmen, but the prime minister was unable to recollect any such incident.
Bar Nur pushed on asking if the Israeli taxpayer was supposed to pay for such use of a military helicopter, to which the prime minister responded "You are asking me about helicopters?
Bar Nur: You pick up the phone and organize a helicopter?
Netanyahu: I will tell you now why I organized a helicopter for them, if I organized the helicopter.
Bar Nur: You did.
Netanyahu: If I had, I will tell you why.
Bar Nur: Who did you call? The military?
Netanyahu: I don't recall.
After more questions back and forth Netanyahu told his interrogator:
Netanyahu: I will tell you why your theory is inconsistent with the facts. There is an aggregation of huge things I believe in, an economic peace, and along comes someone with a plan the fits perfectly into my vision of a free trade zone with Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. I love it, and with an Indian industrialist, this is huge. I didn't think Milchan was involved. I am focused on the Indian. Do you have any idea how this will affect Israel?
Bar Nur: We were talking about a helicopter, sir.
Netanyahu: Mo, no, listen to me.
Bar Nur: Now you're giving a speech.
The Prime Minister's Office released the following statement in response: "What the investigator failed to understand is today clear to all. Prime Minister Netanyahu was promoting strategic relations with India, which has since become a premier ally of Israel, and was also promoting the vision of an economic peace, which was now manifested at the Bahrain Conference.
Today in hindsight, the vision led by the prime minister promoted the strategic relations with India. Netanyahu was guided by Israeli national interests."