Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to have his former bureau chief, Ari Harow, appointed chairman of the Channel 10 news corporation when he first assumed the communications portfolio. This occurred after he supported his associate Len Blavatnik’s purchase of control of the channel.
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Haaretz has learned that Netanyahu asked the CEO of the RGE Group, in which Blavatnik is a partner, to appoint Harow chairman of the board as a confidence-building measure. The purchase of Channel 10 is being investigated in the context of Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits from friendly tycoons, most prominently businessman Arnon Milchan.
Last week in London Blavatnik gave evidence with regard to Case 1000. Police suspect that Netanyahu asked Blavatnik to buy Channel 10 as a favor to his friend and benefactor, Milchan, who holds shares in the channel.
Harow has signed a state’s witness agreement in that case and in Case 2000, in which Netanyahu allegedly tried to make a deal for more favorable coverage with Yedioth Aharonoth publisher Arnon Mozes.
RGE, which is owned by Blavatnik and two Israeli businessmen, Aviv Giladi and Udi Recanati, acquired 51 percent of Channel 10 in May 2015. The purchase was preceded by lengthy negotiations that dealt in part with the channel’s license and its debts. Before the purchase was finalized, Blavatnik came to Israel and managed to secure a meeting with Netanyahu even though the latter was busy trying to cobble together his coalition.
Netanyahu also met several times with Modi Friedman, then the CEO of RGE Group. The meetings took place both before the purchase and afterward, and during these meetings Netanyahu allegedly asked to have Harow appointed to chair the news company. Harow was apparently underemployed at the time, since in December 2014 he was forced to leave the prime minister’s bureau because the Prime Minister’s Office legal adviser had discovered he had violated his conflict-of-interest agreement. During the elections he worked at Likud’s election headquarters and afterward went back to work at his consulting firm.
RGE tried to advance Harow’s candidacy, but it didn’t work out because of regulatory difficulties. According to the Second Authority for Television and Radio regulations, the chairman of the news corporation must be appointed from among the board members that are public representatives, not from among those who represent the owners. Therefore, Harow would have first had to be appointed to the board by the Second Channel Commission, and then be chosen chairman in a vote among the board members. For that reason Harow’s appointment never advanced. In any case, the chairman of the news corporation has no editorial authority, which is the purview of the CEO and editor and chief, but only strategic and administrative powers.
A year later, another Netanyahu associate, Rami Sadan, was named chairman, which generated controversy because of offensive remarks he had made about Jews of Middle Eastern or North African origin. The authority ultimately dismissed him for lying on his resume.
Blavatnik plays a key role in both Case 1000 and Case 2000. In the first, there’s the allegation that Netanyahu asked Blavatnik to purchase Channel 10 to help Milchan, and in the second, Netanyahu allegedly asked Blavatnik to help find an investor who would invest in Yediot to help Mozes.
Netanyahu’s spokesman Nir Hefetz did not respond to questions. The spokesman for the RGE Group, Rotem Kalina, refused to comment. There was also no response from Harow’s attorney, Roy Blecher.