The new testimony of Ari Harow as a state witness in the criminal investigations against the prime minister will not bring him down, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer Amit Hadad has told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview.
Hadad addressed the significance of Harow joining the state’s side against Netanyahu in Case 1000, regarding alleged illegal gifts, and Case 2000, involving an alleged media bribery scheme.
“I am not worried,” said the relatively young but rising star lawyer, as several magazines have written. “We get more information and details, but details of what? When I think about what, I know about what, and I do not worry because the prime minister never committed any corruption-related offenses… assuming this state witness will not lie as other state witnesses have… So the reality as we see it has not changed.”
Hadad, who works with managing partner Jacob Weinroth on the Netanyahu cases, also emphasized the importance of loyalty, and what he called a readiness to sacrifice oneself to avoid metaphorically drawing the blood of another.
Both these comments and additional comments to the Post
depicted a far more detailed picture of Netanyahu’s position than the prime minister’s simple public mantra of “there won’t be anything, because there is nothing.”
Last week, Harow signed a deal that will resolve unrelated charges against him for which he has not yet been indicted and which will not involve jail time, in exchange for his testimony in Case 1000, Case 2000 and other non-Netanyahu related cases.
Responding to Hadad’s comments, Harow’s lawyer Roy Blecher told the Post
, “I’m certain that in the future, when all of the details and facts concerning the matter will be revealed, no doubt will remain regarding Ari’s dedication to Israel and to those he worked for in the public sphere.”
Harow is prevented from fully providing his side of the story pending legal proceedings.
Yet even as he has not made public statements while being in the eye of the media storm, there has been an outpouring of support for Harow from former top government co-workers and from sectors of the close-knit Anglo-Israeli community from which he came.
They have emphasized the narrative of an oleh dedicating his life to the state, and being unfairly targeted by law enforcement as part of a broader attempt to bring down Netanyahu, no matter the collateral damage.
They have said he is nothing like the infamous state witness and former top official Shula Zaken, who was convicted of committing crimes in consort with Ehud Olmert. Harow has never been accused of any crimes relating to Netanyahu.
Even Hadad walked a fine line in discussing Harow, saying that from the perspective of the Netanyahu family, Harow was “without doubt a real member of the family and beloved.” Nevertheless, he added, “the fact he decided to do what he did is difficult.”
Regarding the prime minister’s broader position on the cases, Hadad said that essentially Case 1000 comes down to the prime minister receiving “presents and cigars from [billionaire Arnon] Milchan.”
Leaks of the state’s case against Netanyahu claim that Milchan and others gave Netanyahu gifts for certain gains, such as possibly helping receive a US visa or better media coverage from Channel 10, where Milchan was an investor.
Other leaks have indicated that at some point Milchan wanted to stop giving Netanyahu gifts, and was pressured into continuing to do so.
But Hadad asserted that “when you try to categorize” what kind of theoretical legal violation might apply, “you quickly see that the Gifts Law is not relevant because it only applies to gifts given to a public servant in his capacity as a public servant.”
Citing two proofs, the lawyer contended that Netanyahu and Milchan had “an exceptional friendship and were like brothers,” and that any gifts were given in that capacity.
He said that one proof was that immediately after Netanyahu was elected prime minister in 2009, the second thing he did was write a letter to Milchan, which Milchan framed and hung in the salon at his house.
Another proof he mentioned was that Milchan was giving Netanyahu gifts even when the latter was an out-of-power private citizen, so that giving gifts to him as prime minister was just a continuation of the relationship.
He also contended that the bribery law could not apply, as no one has even suggested any serious proof of money or a concrete benefit that Netanyahu provided to any of his gift givers.
The police reportedly have witnesses, possibly connected to Milchan, and evidence to the contrary.
Regarding Case 2000, Hadad said rebutting allegations leaked to the media are simple.
Media leaks have presented the potential allegations that Netanyahu tried to broker a deal with Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes to give the prime minister better coverage if he pressed his close ally, Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson, to reduce aspects of its competition with Mozes’s paper.
Hadad said that it made no sense that Netanyahu would really cut a deal with Mozes, when both men have been in a public relations war with each other. He said rather than weakening Israel Hayom, Netanyahu had done everything he could to protect Israel Hayom from other politicians who had tried to attack it.
Hadad pointed out that many have claimed that Netanyahu even dissolved the Knesset and called the 2015 elections to block an anti-Israel Hayom law, and that if he wanted such a law to cut a deal with Mozes, he could easily have passed it after the elections – but did not.
Of course, such arguments will have to contend with damning recordings of Netanyahu discussing the deal in theory with Mozes.
Hadad said that society has a problem that it now views people under investigation “as guilty until proven innocent,” instead of honoring the Jewish law value that many guilty should go free rather than wrongly convict one innocent person.
He gave several other examples of major cases he was involved in where he believes the public and the media wrongly condemned someone too quickly.
Two famous cases involved former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and Boaz Harpaz of the infamous Harpaz Affair, which shook the defense establishment for six years.
Ben-Eliezer, who died in August 2016, was indicted in 2015 for charges of bribery, money-laundering, fraud, breach of public trust and tax offenses.
The prosecution accused Ben-Eliezer of laundering millions of shekels by buying real estate, funneling it to bank accounts belonging to relatives, and through the use of currency exchange businesses as well as taking bribes from a series of associates for advancing their interests.
Much of the media portrayal of Ben-Eliezer was of a man who would have gone to jail for years for serious bribery convictions had he not died first.
But Hadad said that in the cases against defendants accused of bribing Ben-Eliezer that have gone forward, the judge has suggested dropping the cases against some of the defendants, and reducing the charges against others.
He explained that the net impact of a full trial on the various charges showed that at most Ben-Eliezer would have faced a conviction for a minor breach of trust, which he was ready to admit to.
Another case Hadad was involved in which he said proved or will prove his point is the Harpaz Affair. At one point, the affair embroiled two IDF chiefs of staff, a defense minister, another minister and the current attorney-general.
Hadad’s client, Boaz Harpaz, is the mid-level retired IDF officer accused of forging a document which led to a political war between then-IDF chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi and then-defense minister Ehud Barak.
Though many in the public and the media suggested Harpaz would get serious jail time for serious crimes, it was reported in March that he would only get community service, and Hadad said that there is proof that Harpaz was not even the document’s forger.
He argued this based on Harpaz failing a polygraph when Harpaz tried to confess to forging the document, reportedly to sacrifice himself for Ashkenazi. He also half-threatened that if the prosecution was not smart enough to cut a lenient deal and the case went to trial, that “telling the full story would be very interesting” in a way that many top officials would not like.
His point was that the legal nuances which led to reducing much of the Ben-Eliezer and Harpaz charges are missed by much of the public and the media.
An interesting aspect of Hadad’s message was that he also views representing powerful criminal defendants the same as his volunteer representation of many of the victims of polygamist cult-leader Goel Ratzon.
In July 2016, Ratzon was sentenced to 30 years in prison for a range of sex and financial crimes committed against 21 “wives,” who were part of his cult over a period of about 30 years, and with whom he had more than 40 children.
Hadad said that helping one of Ratzon’s victims “get her house back” after Ratzon had forced her to give it up, and to “see the happiness from this special woman… this feeling was second to none.”
But he also said that he never sees just a guilty, innocent or victimized person, but a human being who has a right to be treated fairly and given the benefit of the doubt, whether Ratzon’s victims or the prime minister.
Coming back full circle to the prime minister, his broader message was that much of society is biased by our own limited personal experience.
He said that in the world of wealthy individuals, sometimes large gifts that others might not give for free really were just gifts.
With reports that the police will recommend indicting Netanyahu, Hadad has his work cut out for him.