Tel Aviv (GPA) – Former Netanyahu Aide, Ari Harow, has turned state’s witness in two bribery cases against the current Israeli Prime Minister.
Harow has agreed to cooperate with Israeli prosecutors in the ongoing corruption investigations as a part of his own plea bargain. Although Netanyahu dismissed this latest development in a Facebook video, calling it “the scandal of the week,” many observers believe this could be a turning point in the case.
Netanyahu also told said the new status of his former aide was just more “background noises” that he would ignore, assuring the “citizens of Israel” he continues to work for them.
Unfortunately for Bibi, this doesn’t look like a fleeting development, nor is it even the first scandal of this week. Just five days ago, information surfaced that David Shimron, a Netanyahu lawyer (and cousin) has found himself in the sights of prosecutors for possibly attempting to receive a multi million dollar kick back in a now dead defense deal. Shimron was arrested last month along with Miki Ganor – a former employee of German submarine manufacturer ThyssenKryupp.
Ganor, Shimron and now Harow are just the latest dominoes to fall, but Harow is the first to offer testimony in exchange for a reduced sentence on charges of corruption. Prosecutors took Harow’s testimony in exchange for a reduction of his sentence from 6 months in jail to 6 months of community service and a $194,000 fine.
Harow resigned from his government position back in 2015 as allegations of mishandling of government and business affairs began to emerge. It’s unknown what exactly is in Mr. Harow’s testimony, but it is believed to relate to both investigations that revolve around Netanyahu, dubbed “1,000 and 2,000” by Israeli police.
The case known as 1,000 involves alleged illegal gifts from business executives and Netanyahu supporters received by the Prime Minister and his family. The gifts are said to range from minor items like cigars, haircuts, and champagne to bigger ticket bribes like hotel rooms and flights on private jets.
Case 2,000 involves conversations between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the owner of one of Israel’s largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Apparently, Netanyahu asked Ahronoth for more favorable coverage, and in exchange Netanyahu would change government policies that gave an unfair advantage to a competing free paper owned by US billionaire, and Bibi supporter, Sheldon Adelson.
There is also the issue of French businessman Arnaud Mimran who made illegal donations to Netanyahu’s 2009 campaign, which initially kicked off the investigations. Mimran volunteered the information on Netanyahu after getting caught up in a carbon credit scheme which ended with his Israeli co-conspirators returning to the shelter of their home country before charges were filed.
Netanyahu has already been questioned on multiple occasions by police about all of these corruption charges but the fact that his aide during that period has now jumped on board with the state’s investigation changes things. It now seems inevitable that Netanyahu will be indicted, although the law doesn’t require him to resign even if he is found to be guilty of corruption.
Netanyahu was previously investigated in the late 1990’s for actions during his time as Finance Minister. But prosecutors at the time denied police requests to file charges. There have also been investigations of Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, for misusing state funds to purchase furniture and pay for her father’s elderly care.
As previously stated, the accusations against Harow were significant enough to force his resignation back in 2015, which makes it seem most likely that prosecutors wouldn’t have had reason to bargain with him unless he had valuable information. Unfortunately, in keeping with the norm of these investigations, Harow’s testimony hasn’t been released, and a gag order has been imposed on everyone involved in the plea negotiation.
While this may not be Netanyahu’s first time under investigation – or even having the police recommend an indictment – it does seem possible this could be real. Compared to the low-level corruption charges of the 90’s, Bibi is now being connected to all sorts of crimes; including manipulating the Israeli media market, giving kickbacks to confidants and family, illegal campaign donations, and attempting to benefit personally from major state contracts. Far from flying in a friend’s private jet; if these accusations are true, Bibi should be genuinely worried about his grip on power. Netanyahu may be in a somewhat stable political position right now, but if he’s found guilty of these charges, it will likely be a different story.