Top chef comes to Netanyahu’s defense in corruption trial

Celebrity chef Haim Cohen rebuts claims made by key witness against Netanyahu family in Case 1000 corruption trial, denying billionaire paid for family’s meals.

By World Israel News Staff

A celebrity chef took aim at testimony made in the Netanyahu trial Wednesday, rebutting claims by a previous witness which seemed to incriminate the former prime minister and his wife, Sara Netanyahu.

Haim Cohen, a chef and television personality, took to social media Wednesday to challenge claims made in court regarding meals he prepared for the Netanyahu family when Benjamin Netanyahu was serving as prime minister.

A day earlier, Hadas Klein, a former aide to billionaire filmmaker Arnon Milchan and now a star witness in the Case 1000 against Netanyahu, testified that Milchan had covered the Netanyahu family’s food bill, paying large sums to Cohen for meals ordered on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Netanyahu is accused of breach of trust in the case for allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of gifts from businessmen, including Milchan and James Packer from 2011 to 2016.

Along with cigars, champagne, and jewelry, the Netanyahu family allegedly received free meals prepared by top-level chefs, with Milchan footing the bill.

According to Klein, Milchan brought Cohen to cook for the Netanyahus, made recommendations for meals, and paid the bill.

Read  Netanyahu to Congress members: Iran is like '50 North Koreas' threatening 'every US state'

The gifts created a conflict of interest, prosecutors claim, in particular given Netanyahu’s role in passing legislation extending tax exemptions for Israelis returning to Israel after living abroad, dubbed Milchan’s Law.

Prosecutors have claimed the law’s passage was part of a larger pattern of steps taken by Netanyahu to benefit Milchan, including assisting Milchan receive an extension of his U.S. visa.

But Cohen, one of the chef’s named by Klein during her testimony Tuesday, denied her claims, saying that the Prime Minister’s Residence paid him – not Milchan.

Writing on Facebook Wednesday, Cohen noted that he has prepared meals in the past for other prominent Israeli leaders hosted by Milchan, including Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni.

However, Cohen continued, it was Sara Netanyahu, not Milchan, who asked him to prepare meals at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

“Mrs. Netanyahu asked me to come and cook at Balfour [the Prime Minister’s Residence] for them [the Netanyahus] and the president. I agreed immediately, and we agreed that I would speak with the people from the residence to work out the details.”

“Arnon Milchan immediately got up from the table, took me aside, and whispered to me: ‘I’ll pay for their meal,’ but I immediately refused.”

“We arranged payment for the meal, as we had agreed, through the Prime Minister’s Residence, from its hospitality budget…198 shekels per person, with extra for the waiter. Balfour ordered and Balfour paid.”

Read  Draft exemption for ultra-Orthodox or gov't collapses: Minister

Shortly after Cohen posted the comment, one of Netanyahu’s attorneys, Amit Hadad, questioned Klein regarding Cohen’s rebuttal of her previous claims.

“Is he lying?” Hadad asked.

Klein replied: “God forbid. I would love this to be checked. We had so many different chefs we brought in, and we paid them. But if I’m mistaken, I’d be happy to correct it.”