Lawyer Suspected of Money Laundering Set to Defend Israel's Land-grabbing Law in Court

Justice Minister calls attorney Harel Arnon 'most suitable' person to defend outpost legalization law, even though the police have called for his indictment in another case.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, March 6, 2017.
Diego Mittelberg

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is insisting that attorney Harel Arnon will defend the state when the High Court of Justice hears a petition against the law that legalizes outposts, even though the police have recommended he be prosecuted on suspicion of money laundering.

“Attorney Harel Arnon will represent the state in the High Court hearing on the regularization law,” Shaked tweeted, referring to the controversial legislation that would allow the effective expropriation of Palestinian lands on which Jewish homes were built in exchange for compensation. “There’s no legal reason preventing him from doing so, he’s the most suitable person for this task, a professional in the field and a talented litigator,” she wrote.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit officially informed the High Court last week that he will not represent the state in the petition. Mendelblit conveyed his position during preliminary hearings on the petition, which was filed by the Silwad municipality and other regional councils in the West Bank. Mendelblit has long refused to defend the law, saying he considers it unconstitutional.

The announcement by the State Prosecution’s High Court department said, “Under the exceptional circumstances in this instance, and taking into account the principles set down in this context by the Shamgar Committee, which examined the process of appointing the attorney general and issues connected to his tenure, the attorney general finds it proper to accept the request by politicians to allow the Israeli government to be represented in this petition by a private attorney.”

Arnon is suspected of involvement in the case of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief, Ari Harow, who allegedly made a fictitious sale of his consulting firm under a conflict of interest agreement he had signed before taking up his post in the Prime Minister’s Office. Arnon drew up the sale contract, and police suspect him of aggravated fraud and money laundering.

In an announcement two weeks ago, police said the investigation into Harow found evidentiary basis for bribery, breach of trust, aggravated fraudulent receipt, conspiring to commit a crime and money laundering while he served as the prime minister’s chief of staff. 

The police statement said that under the conflict of interest agreement, Harow was obligated to sell his company and not to have any ties to it. The findings of the investigation indicate that the sale was fictitious and that he effectively maintained control of the firm and continued to profit from it and to advance its interests. The police also found ostensibly solid evidence against Arnon and recommended that both be prosecuted.

Last week, 28 law school lecturers signed a request to join the petition by the West Bank towns as friends of the court. The lecturers argued that the outpost legalization law was invalid and should be struck down. The petition was filed through the International Human Rights Clinic of the Hebrew University’s law faculty.