Analysis

Netanyahu's Top Aide Turning State's Witness Leaves Little Doubt: The PM Will Be Indicted

Netanyahu's prosecutors wouldn't sign a deal with someone in as bad a legal shape as Ari Harow unless they knew he could deliver damning evidence. An indictment is all but in the bag

Ari Harow being investigated last year in Lod
Ari Harow being investigated last year in Lod Ilan Assayag

The state's witness agreement reached between the prosecution and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former aide, Ari Harow, on Friday has one virtually irreversible implication: An indictment against Netanyahu is coming. 

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Netanyahu's former chief of staff Ari Harow supplied information in two key affairs: Allegations that the prime minister received gifts from wealthy benefactors, and secret negotiations Netanyahu allegedly held with the publisher of Israel's most popular newspaper in return for favorable coverage.

Under his deal with the prosecution, Harow will be convicted of fraud and breach of trust in a separate case, but will avoid jail time. Instead, he will do community service as pay a 700,000-shekel ($193,000) fine.

If top officials in the police and prosecution believed that the agreement wouldn't yield significant information that will strengthen and perhaps even complete the evidence in the two corruption cases, they wouldn't have signed it. There's no point in helping out a suspect in a legal condition as bad as Harow's if no real compensation is given in return. This isn't the final word, of course, but the direction is clear.

Over the weekend, the prosecution decided to impose a gag order on the details Harow had provided during his interrogation. The gag orders have become an epidemic: the details of the Bezeq and submarine affairs are also under wraps. It’s doubtful whether there really is a need for such an unrestrained hush-hush policy, which stands in conflict with the position taken by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in his first months in office, when he labeled these orders as publicity-enhancing ones.

Making allowances for the gag order, one can assume that Harow will deepen both cases against Netanyahu, taking them to a faraway continent while making at least one key player in this affair a criminal suspect. It will probably also seal the fate of Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes. 

One should not expect any decisions to be taken before the High Holidays. Harow’s testimony should produce versions to be collected by people living in Israel and overseas. It will obviously necessitate a further interrogation of Netanyahu who, surprisingly, has not been questioned since last March despite the bolstering of evidence accumulated in the two cases, which should have required his immediate response. The possibility that Harow would turn state’s witness arose a year ago. 

When the gag order is lifted it may be possible to relate the interesting dialogue that ensued between him and his lawyers on one hand and police investigators and state prosecutors on the other, regarding the explosive recordings of the talks between Netanyahu and Mozes, and regarding the circumstances that led the trusted confidant, who at the age of 34 was already serving in key posts at the Prime Minister’s Office, to cross the lines.

This is probably not the final dramatic twist in the Netanyahu cases. When members of this complicated inner circle see the empire crumbling and the leader taking a dive they usually calculate their own personal and immediate benefits.