Right-wing U.S. Group Gave Netanyahu Ex-chief of Staff Huge 'Consulting Fee'

State's witness against former boss Netanyahu received $105,000 from One Jerusalem in year he left Prime Minister's Office

(R) Ari Harow, former aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C). Harrow received $105,000 in 'consulting fee' in 2010 from an organization linked to Ron Lauder (L)
Emil Salman, Olivier Fitoussi, Marc Israel Sellem

Ari Harow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief and chief of staff, received $105,000 as a “consulting fee” from an American organization. The person behind that organization is Allen Roth, the right-hand man of American Jewish billionaire and close personal friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ronald Lauder. The sum was paid to Harow in 2010, the year he left the Prime Minister’s Office. (Harow returned as chief of staff after the 2013 election, then left again in 2015.)

The State Prosecutor’s Office recently reached a plea bargain with Harow, who is suspected of continuing illegally to operate 3H Global, an Israeli-based international government relations firm that he founded, while still working in the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to reports, Harow, who was born in the U.S., is likely to provide details about the investigations the Israel Police are conducting into Netanyahu’s alleged receipt of gifts from wealthy businessmen as well as the premier’s contacts with Arnon Mozes, editor of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

The organization that paid Harow for consultancy was established in 2000, under the name One Jerusalem, by right-wing Americans. Its Israel representative was Natan Sharansky. One Jerusalem was founded, according to its website, for the purpose of “keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.” In 2001 the organization – which is today called Americans for Jerusalem – held a rally in Jerusalem that drew hundreds of thousands, in a protest against any future division of the city.

In 2007 the group conducted a multimillion-dollar campaign against the Annapolis peace summit attended by then-U.S. President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The campaign was coordinated by another associate of Netanyahu’s, Yechiel Leiter, a veteran settler activist. At the time Leiter refused to reveal at a press conference who had funded the campaign. Leiter later went on to work with Harow at 3H Global.

Harow worked with Netanyahu in 2008 when the latter served as chairman of the opposition. When Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009, Harow was appointed to be his bureau chief, under then-chief of staff Natan Eshel. In late March 2010 Harow announced his resignation, for health reasons. Weeks later, on April 6, he founded his consulting company. His activities there led to an investigation of suspicions that he took bribes.

In 2010, One Jerusalem reported to U.S. tax authorities that it had paid Harow $105,000, in accordance with the requirement that such organizations report consultation fees in excess of $100,000. The sum Harow received is unusually high for the organization; in no other year was there a report of any consultant receiving such a sum. It’s not clear what Harow was consulted about, because in that year One Jerusalem was apparently not involved in any significant activities. Its budget was $682,000, of which $315,000 was donated to conservative U.S. organizations, including Citizens United, which received $125,000.

In 2010 One Jerusalem’s address was listed in Ronald Lauder’s offices in New York. The director of the organization that year, when Harow received his fee, was Allen Roth. Roth accompanied Lauder on trips to Syria when he attempted to mediate between Israel and the late Syrian President Hafez Assad.

Key figure worked against Obama, Iran deal

Roth serves as a director in a long list of Lauder’s companies. He is also active behind the scenes in a number of conservative and right-wing groups in the U.S. For example, Roth is president of Secure America Now, whose activities included mobilizing opposition to Barack Obama’s reelection for president in 2012 and the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Since the money was paid to Harow, One Jerusalem has undergone several changes. In 2012 its name was changed to Americans for Jerusalem, and it launched an amateurish website on a free platform. Also that year, the group conducted a campaign, to the tune of $1 million, called I Vote Israel, in an effort to register U.S. voters living in Israel.

In June, Haaretz reported that Americans for Jerusalem, along with another U.S. group called Shining City – which is also run by people close to Netanyahu – together contributed over 4.5 million shekels ($1.24 million) in 2015 to Israel’s inflammatory anti-leftist organization Im Tirtzu, a sharp jump from the previous year, when that group received 1.7 million shekels in donations.

Shining City was active mainly during the period surrounding the 2015 election in Israel, and during the months when the U.S. administration was discussing the nuclear treaty with Iran. An analysis of the Shining City website, which has now been taken off the internet, indicates it was registered by Vincent Harris, an American who was hired by Netanyahu as digital media adviser in his election campaign.

Both Shining City and Americans for Jerusalem have been registered under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4), which permits a special tax-exemption status to nonprofits involved in promoting social welfare goals, and also enables them to use part of their capital to promote political objectives – without revealing their sources of funding. The possibility of using money from unidentified sources for political purposes has turned organizations of this type into central players in recent election campaigns in the U.S., where these entities are known as “dark money” organizations.

According to official documents submitted by Shining City in Virginia in 2016, the group had three directors: Phil Rosen, Eliot Lauer and Andrew (Andy) Albstein, all of them well-established New York lawyers. At least two of them have ties to Netanyahu and are closely connected to the Republican Party.

Attorney Roy Blecher, who represents Harow, told Haaretz that he cannot discuss anything connected to his client. Neither Sharansky nor Roth replied to requests for comment.