(photo credit: WWW.ARIHAROW.COM)
When Ari Harow returned to the Prime Minister’s Office as Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff in 2014, former PMO director-general Eyal Gabai advised him against it, by comparing him to the high priest in the Holy Temple.
Quoting from the Talmud’s Tractate Pirkei Avot about how it was a cause for celebration when the high priest left the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement without being harmed, he advised Harow that he had emerged unscathed once, but if he came back, he would be taking a serious risk.
“Many people in the prime minister’s surroundings want to be the man closest to him, with the most influence, and that causes turf wars,” Gabai explained. “I am sure Ari did not do anything wrong and that the police will find nothing, because he is straight as a ruler. But I am not surprised that people in the Prime Minister’s Office attempt to get their colleagues in trouble, because there were too many people who did not wish him well.”
Harow has found himself at the center of the police probe into allegations that Netanyahu and others close to him were reportedly involved in money laundering. As the prime minister’s former key fund-raiser, police think Harow can provide information on Netanyahu’s financial dealings. Harow has also been questioned on the sale of his 3H Global international government relations firm.
Harow was raised in a Los Angeles family with seven children, including three who were adopted but he treated like his own flesh and blood, and one who has Down’s syndrome, who he has always taken special care of. He made aliya with his family when he was 12, and represented Israel as a Little League Baseball star before entering the IDF and serving in the Golani Brigade.
He went to Bar-Ilan University and Brooklyn College in New York, where he met his wife, Naomi, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. They have four children aged three to 12.
After working for the Makor Rishon newspaper and the Honest Reporting organization, he joined American Friends of Likud, rebuilding an organization that had been going through tough times.
That post led to him replacing Bennett as Netanyahu’s bureau chief, first when he was opposition leader and then prime minister.
Gabai called Harow a smart professional and a true Zionist, and said he enjoyed working with him. Those feelings were echoed by many other former colleagues, some of whom could not speak on record due to their current posts and others out of fear of upsetting Netanyahu at a time when police could be using Harow to find information to incriminate the prime minister.
For instance, one Likud minister declared Harow “the only Netanyahu chief of staff I ever liked, except Naftali Bennett.”
But he refused to go on record because “Netanyahu wouldn’t like it.” Another political figure went to bat for Harow at first and then got scolded by his boss, because he appeared to be “dirtying himself and challenging the rule of law” by defending Harow.
But those who spoke had only positive things to say. The one sentence said by each and every current and former public figure was that it “pained them” to see Harow endure questioning by police under harsh conditions, the first taking place after they entered his Modi’in home early in the morning ahead of his daughter’s bat mitzva, and the second immediately upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport after back-to-back red-eye flights.
“Ari is a decent, honest Zionist,” Bennett said. “I wish him well. I hope he emerges unscathed and continues to contribute to the nation of Israel.”
Kulanu MK Michael Oren said it was a pleasure working closely with Harow when he (Oren) was ambassador to the US. Oren called him dedicated, said he understands US-Israel relations well, and said he made his job as ambassador a lot easier.
“My stomach turned over when I heard what Ari is going through because he is a good man, period,” said a former senior PMO official who worked closely with Harow. “I watched him over time in the PMO where work is very complex and intense. When key decisions were in his hands, he always made the right choices. He always put the country first, even in situations when others did not.”
The official called Harow “the kind of person that you can rest easy knowing is in charge, a man with no ego, and the last person you would think would get in trouble with the law.”