(TIMES OF ISRAEL) – Opposition leader Yair Lapid testified for the second consecutive day in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, sparring with the defence over his ties to a Hollywood billionaire who allegedly plied the PM with pricey gifts in exchange for having his interests advanced.
Lapid was called as a witness to speak about his time as finance minister in 2013-2014, when he was approached by both Netanyahu and billionaire Arnon Milchan about the idea of extending the duration of the tax break given to returning Israelis who have lived overseas, from 10 years to 20.
Attorney Amit Hadad sought to portray Lapid and Milchan as close friends while attempting to dent the Yesh Atid leader’s credibility as a witness.
Lapid worked briefly for Milchan about 30 years ago and has said they spent some time together but were not close. The two are also linked through Milchan’s daughter Elinor, who is a founding member of Yesh Atid.
“I have a lot of friends. He isn’t one of my five best friends, let alone 10 or 15,” Lapid said.
Parts of the hearing took on a political tone, with Hadad asking Lapid about his relationship with Netanyahu and whether it was defined by “abhorrence”.
“Definitely not abhorrence. A lack of trust – yes,” Lapid said.
Hadad also cited surveys indicating Yesh Atid has benefited electorally from Netanyahu’s legal woes.
“You’re presenting this as if this affair brings me joy. This is a sad day for the State of Israel and a sad situation for me,” Lapid responded.
He also reiterated that he had told Milchan “no” on the tax break while taking a shot at Netanyahu: “Milchan spoke with me and he knows I don’t owe him anything because I never took gifts from him worth hundreds of thousands of shekels,” he said.
Throughout the cross-examination, Hadad sought to poke holes in Lapid’s testimony. In the sharpest exchange Hadad accused Lapid of having a history of lying about personal details, referencing discrepancies in the opposition leader’s recounting of his military service.
As the court session ended, Lapid told the judges, “I don’t envy your position.”
Netanyahu, who was indicted for fraud and breach of trust, was also hit with those charges in two other cases, along with bribery in one of them. He denies wrongdoing and has claimed the charges are part of an effort by prosecutors, police, political rivals and the media to oust him from office.