When it comes to choosing top aides, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a type. Ari Harow, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, fits the profile perfectly. He’s clean-cut, a native English speaker raised in the United States, well-educated and modern Orthodox, with a deep commitment to the Zionist conservative right, especially the Likud party. And he spent much of his young adulthood in both Israel and the United States.
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Harow has also been discreet and fiercely loyal to Netanyahu. For this reason, news that he agreed to turn state’s witness in two corruption cases against Netanyahu reverberated widely Friday. That bombshell came a day after the police said Netanyahu was suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two criminal cases. Under the deal, Harow will be convicted of fraud and breach of trust in a separate case against him, but will avoid jail time. He’ll walk away with community service and a $193,000 fine.
Harow was born and raised in Los Angeles. His family immigrated to the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron in 1985 when he was 12. He adjusted to life in Israel — playing Little League Baseball as many young American immigrants do — finished high school and served in the Golani Brigade before returning to the United States for college, according to a 2007 profile written when he first formally joined Netanyahu’s team.
Harow also worked as director of marketing and media for Honest Reporting, a media watchdog group which, in its early days, was partly supported by the rightist religious outreach organization Aish HaTorah.
At the time, Netanyahu was gearing up for his return to power. At 34, Harow came on board as Netanyahu’s foreign affairs adviser, charged with “overseeing communication between his office and Jewish organizations, governments and media abroad.” He had proved himself by serving as “an unpaid external adviser for Netanyahu on Diaspora affairs for more than five years, going back to the 2002 Likud primary.”
This included the time when Harow lived in the United States, running American Friends of Likud from 2003 to 2006. It was this role that put him under police scrutiny — in that job, he was asked to pay Netanyahu’s media adviser, Odelia Karmon, a salary of $3,500 a month for working for the organization. Actually, she was working for Netanyahu, managing his ties with foreign businesspeople and organizing his and his family’s trips abroad. But no charges came out of that investigation.
In 2008, Harow replaced Ayelet Shaked as Netanyahu’s bureau chief and was in that role when Netanyahu returned as prime minister the following year. But shortly afterward, Harow left Netanyahu’s office and entered the private sector, citing health concerns.
Between 2010 and 2014, Harow created two consulting companies, Strategic Capital and 3H Global, mining his political expertise and connections. He then returned to Netanyahu’s side as chief of staff. But that stint, too, was short-lived, and he left to manage Likud headquarters during the 2015 election campaign.
It was the way Harow offloaded one of his consulting firms that ignited an investigation against him; the suspicion was that the sale of the company was fictitious.
In February, the police recommended that Harow be indicted on charges including bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering. The police said that while serving as chief of staff, Harow maintained control of the firm, continued to profit from it and advanced its interests.
Harow, back in private life and living with his wife and children in the city of Modi’in, has been linked to two investigations against the prime minister — one that stemmed from information uncovered when Harow was under investigation.
In the probe known as Case 2000, Harow was allegedly the person who recorded conversations between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The two allegedly discussed giving Netanyahu favorable coverage if the prime minister took steps to hobble Yedioth’s free rival Israel Hayom, owned by U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
It was while searching Harow’s belongings in 2015 that the police came across a recording of a Netanyahu-Mozes conversation.
Harow also worked closely with Netanyahu when the prime minister had close ties to businessman Arnon Milchan, a relationship at the heart of an investigation known as Case 1000, which involves lavish gifts to Netanyahu and his family.
The fact that so much time passed between the eruption of Harow’s troubles in 2015 and the state’s witness deal against Netanyahu — who has been under investigation for most of that time — indicates that it took a lot of police persuasion to convince Harow to testify against his former boss and save himself from prison.
All signs point to the fact that Harow is a key piece of the puzzle leading to what could be Netanyahu’s indictment. It remains to be seen whether the Harow deal means the secrets he’s trading for leniency are damning enough to end the Netanyahu era.