If you weren’t familiar with the name Ari Harow until a few days ago, you are not alone. The near-anonymous, Los Angeles-born political advisor and businessman, 44, has suddenly been catapulted into a barrage of police investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Harow served in two key positions. And, as of late last week, Harow has turned state’s witness against his former boss.
Ari made Aliyah at age 12 with his family, from California to Karnei Shomron, Samaria, where they quickly established themselves as pivotal figures in the settlement’s growth. Ari became a little league baseball star in Israel. He emerged as youth leader, followed by his exemplary service in the IDF, in the Golani infantry brigade. He then went on to work for the likes of Honest Reporting and American Friends of Likud, promoting Israel’s image and connections. In 2002, at age 29, Harow began working with Netanyahu.
Friends of Ari Harow have told JewishPress.com that Harow is well-liked in his social circles of mostly fellow Olim. He is always friendly, they say, and despite his years of access to power – he is not pretentious in the least. But recent events are threatening to tarnish his reputation.
Accused by police investigators of carrying out only a fictitious sale of his private consulting business 3H Global in 2013, ahead of his appointment as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Harow was heavily pressured to turn state’s witness against Netanyahu or face prosecution himself.
Police expect Harow to do to Netanyahu what long-time aid Shula Zaken did to former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
According to Channel 2 News, Harow recently told his associates his experience was nothing like Zaken’s: “It is not that I broke the law with Netanyahu and now I am looking for a way to blame it on him so I can get away with it. I am being blamed for something that has nothing to do with him… It is not a situation in which either I or he (Netanyahu) are going to jail, but whether or not I am going to jail, for no reason.”
“It will take time, but people will understand that I am not what they thought I was as a state’s witness – not in the charges they have against me, and not in the deal I’ve signed,” Harow said.
He also does not believe Netanyahu’s actions about which he testified are criminal. “I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now,” he said.
Regarding his own police investigation, Harow said that the charges were baseless. “I did not do anything regarding my company without consulting a lawyer,” he said. “In other circumstances I would have gone to battle, but in this situation it seems pointless in light of the resources being invested [to find evidence against Netanyahu].”
Harow stressed that his time serving under Netanyahu was an act of Zionism. “I came there to serve – twice – because of Zionism, because I was called to duty,” he said. “This is the reason I made Aliyah, and why I am raising my children here. I am proud of the time I served the public under Netanyahu. I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Harow doesn’t believe Netanyahu’s actions about which he testified are criminal. “I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now.”
Ari Harow is considered to have been one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants. Having served twice in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), first as Bureau Chief in 2009 and then as Chief of Staff in 2014, Harow was a trusted member of Netanyahu’s inner circle, considered to be extremely conscientious, reliable and hard-working.
Eyal Gabai, former-Director General at the PMO, told the Jerusalem Post Harow was “straight as a ruler.” Odelia Karmon, former-advisor to Netanyahu, described Harow on Channel 2 as “low-key and discreet.” Another former PMO colleague who remained anonymous said Harow is “the kind of person that you can rest easy knowing he is in charge, a man with no ego.”
Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who is no stranger to locking horns with Netanyahu, called Harow “a decent, honest Zionist.” Michael Oren has praised Harow’s role in furthering US-Israel relations when Oren was Israel’s Ambassador to Washington.
His former colleague Eyal Gabai recalls advising Harow against returning to the PMO in 2014. He said that working in such a high-profile, high-pressure position was akin to the job of the High Priest in the Temple: on Yom Kippur, it was a cause for celebration if the High Priest exited the Holy of Holies alive. Harow had already emerged unblemished from the PMO once as Bureau Chief, Gabai reasoned. Returning for a second stint, as Chief of Staff, Gabai argued, would be foolish.
Still, Harow took the personal risk to serve Netanyahu and his agenda one more time—which included Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in the summer of 2014. He then left the office on good terms, hoping for a quiet life.
It appears that Ari Harow is a man eager to serve his country with honesty and integrity, who has been pulled into events far bigger than himself. This should not reflect on his character and credentials. Nor should it reflect on his track record of working on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.