Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to face criminal charges for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The charges are the result of a three-year corruption probe, and could mark the end of the road for Israel’s longest serving prime minister.

But not only is Netanyahu the first Israeli PM to face criminal charges, he’s likely the first head of state to face prosecution because of a bromance with James Packer.

Packer, along with Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, is alleged to have provided about $200,000 worth of champagne, cigars, accommodation and concert tickets to the prime minister and his family. According to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, the steady flow of gifts amounted to a “supply line”. In return, Netanyahu is alleged to have provided various favours to Milchan, including helping him renew his American visa.

Two years ago, after reportedly fleeing from Israeli prosecutors on his yacht, Packer finally sat down and cut a deal, agreeing to provide evidence to the AFP, which was working on Israel’s behalf, on the condition that any evidence would not be used against him. 

By then, their friendship had been blossoming for some years. In 2015, Packer bought a villa in the seaside town of Caesarea, outside Tel Aviv, and right next to Netanyahu. The Netanyahu family were frequent visitors, even using the pad while Packer was away. That year, Packer sat alongside the Netanyahu family to watch Bibi give a speech to US Congress lashing out at Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. 

At a gathering at Packer’s house in 2016, while Israel was involved in one of its regular offensives in Gaza, Netanyahu reportedly arranged a high-paying job at Packer’s company for a friend of his son Yair. 

And when Packer split from former fiancee Mariah Carey in 2016, Netanyahu “saved Packer’s life” by calling him and urging him to come to Israel.

Bibi might’ve saved Packer, but he did his own political future few favours.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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