Opinion

Ari Harow Hoped to Survive the Prime Minister's Office. He Didn't

The disturbing riddle is how someone like Harow, who is genuinely far removed from any criminal thinking, got into so much trouble?

Netanyahu and Ari Harow, 2008.
Daniel Bar-On

In mid-February 2008, Ari Harow was troubled. Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, had just gotten rid of the prime minister’s office director, Ayelet Shaked, and given him the job. “Bibi called me this morning to tell me that Ayelet is out. ... I didn’t have a chance to present my ideas about the job, but I’ll meet him on Sunday,” Harow wrote a friend, who also was a senior adviser to Netanyahu for many years. “I don’t know whether to congratulate you or offer condolences,” responded Harow’s friend. “Condolences, I guess, but what can I do? I’ll do my best to survive. Please tell me if you have any ideas,” Harow replied.

Harow knew exactly what he was getting into. He had worked alongside Netanyahu, he had seen people skyrocket one day and then be tossed aside in a text message. He dealt with fundraising, foreign travel and the like, but as in a Greek tragedy, when opportunity knocked, he simply couldn’t say no. He didn’t know how to say no the first time, in 2008, nor the second time, when he was made Netanyahu’s chief of staff.

He is a good man, honest, not a publicity hound, who believed in Netanyahu. From the beginning he was cast in the most thankless and dangerous role in Netanyahu’s circle. Netanyahu maintained a fat notebook with the names of rich businesspeople from all over the world. Next to each, he marked how deep the pockets were, and there was always somebody who was supposed to maintain the relationships with all those individuals. At one point it was Rena Riger, for a year it was Odelia Karmon and for many years it was Harow.

He knows the Falic family, Spencer Partrich, Joshua Rowe, Marc Belzberg, Moshe Ronen, Arnon Milchan, Yehuda Weingarten of Belgium and all the rest of the tycoons whose names mean nothing to most people, but who are very familiar to Harow and Netanyahu.

Harow knows which one legitimately invested in the boss and which one less so, who helped fund a trip or a campaign, and Harow is the one who arranged for those people to meet with Netanyahu or who conveyed his requests to them. He dealt with the most sensitive issues: bank accounts, receipts for plane tickets, funding the campaign and even Sara Netanyahu’s hairdos. Were Netanyahu allowed to pick one person in his circle not to turn state’s evidence against him, it would be David Shimron, but Ari Harow would be next.

Harow said a long time ago that he was willing to cut a deal. He already gave detailed statements, that were conditioned on a deal being signed. Was it a coincidence that Harow, and in the same context Michael Ganor, both of them ostensibly such high-quality witnesses, were signed to state’s evidence agreements after Liat Ben-Ari, Tel Aviv district attorney for taxation and economics, was assigned to the case? Attorney General Avichai Mendelbit deserves credit for giving the Netanyahu cases to the prosecutor who worked on the Holyland case against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. On the other hand, Mendelblit has some explaining to do to the public for the way the investigations were handled in the year-plus before Ben-Ari came on the scene.

The disturbing riddle is how someone like Harow (and like Perach Lerner, another former staffer in the Prime Minister’s Office), who is genuinely far removed from any criminal thinking, got into so much trouble? Lerner confessed to fraud and breach of trust for giving information to her husband, a PR executive who owed some of his clients to the proximity to her. Harow actually got into trouble over the partly fictitious sale of his company. That has nothing to do with Netanyahu. Still, when you frequently operate in gray areas, where Netanyahu’s office sometimes operates, you too might start behaving the same way outside the office. One thing is for sure, Harow’s hopes in 2008 were dashed. He didn’t survive.