Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former chief of staff Ari Harow.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
In a private conversation in the Knesset cafeteria Thursday, an MK who was once a top official in an intelligence agency cautioned against comparing what security prisoners were subjected to in the past to retrieve information to prevent terror attacks to what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harow is enduring now.
He said it is unlikely that Harow has been threatened with being thrown in boiling water if he does not deliver the goods and incriminate Netanyahu. But the MK acknowledged that Harow is under a tremendous amount of pressure right now.
On the one hand, Harow is a true Israeli patriot and a big believer in Netanyahu.
He devoted his career to advancing Netanyahu, and through him, the State of Israel.
Working very close to Netanyahu is not easy. The prime minister is not known for his people skills, to put it mildly. He is a workaholic, who is usually up until the late hours of the night, and he demands that key staff stay close to him that entire time.
Harow did not work those long hours for fame and fortune. Unlike others who held the same roles, he did not try to build a name for himself, and until the criminal investigations emerged, he was not even a household name in the country.
When he served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief, Harow’s health deteriorated significantly. No one was surprised when he left the post, but he raised many eyebrows when he returned to be the prime minister’s chief of staff.
Returning required Harow to set aside the international consulting business he was building up, which is the subject of a solid criminal investigation against him. Coming back was bad for Harow professionally, financially and certainly personally for his family.
Harow, whose coworkers unanimously call him a man of integrity, worked hard for Netanyahu, because he bought in to the prime minister’s message that he is the only man who can keep Israel and the world safe from a nuclear Iran and international pressure on the Palestinian front.
Now Harow is being presented with an unenviable moral dilemma. If he still believes Netanyahu must remain prime minister to save Israel, he is being told by police to choose between saving the country and saving his own skin.
The police are making him decide between toppling a prime minister respected by leaders around the world and going to jail. They want him to pick between a mentor who still can have a bright political future and the future of himself and his own family.
Police sources said they have told Harow that if he becomes a state’s witness, the more information he provides that will help them prosecute Netanyahu, the better the deal he will receive. Harow is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering over allegations that he advanced his business interests while being employed at the Prime Minister’s Office and fictitiously sold his government relations firm 3H Global, maintaining ownership when he was required to sell due to a possible conflict of interest.
Those who know Harow well have said that in an effort to make Harow cave in whatever information he might have, the police have made his life a living hell.
One early morning, police entered his Modi’in home and ransacked it hours ahead of his daughter’s bat mitzva. They also froze his bank account.
They questioned him for 14 hours immediately upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport after back-to-back redeye flights. They have given him a hard time whenever he leaves the country.
Harow cannot discuss any details of his case while police are leaking information nonstop that he can neither confirm nor deny.
The former little league baseball star is on an unfair playing field, because he must obey by rules that the police do not enforce on themselves.
When reporters confronted Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit at the Supreme Court Thursday and asked about Harow, he pleaded for patience. He made clear that the cases against Netanyahu and his top associates will take time.
That means Harow’s life will remain in limbo for the foreseeable future. But police have leaked that he has key decisions to make now.
It will be up to Harow to try to find a happy medium that would allow him to not sacrifice Netanyahu or himself.
The MK said that many security prisoners have tried to have their cake and eat it too in the past and many have failed. Perhaps Harow will succeed.