Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two cases, Israel Police confirmed on Thursday when it requested a gag order on the ongoing talks to recruit a state witness. The gag order was granted and is effective until September 17.
A response on behalf of the prime minister stated on Thursday:
“We completely reject the unfounded claims made against the prime minister. The campaign to change the government is underway, but it is destined to fail, for a simple reason: there won’t be anything because there was nothing.”
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Also on Thursday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said that progress was being made in talks with a former top aide to Netanyahu, Ari Harow, about becoming a state witness.
Speaking during a ceremony at the Supreme Court, Mendelblit said “we’re making progress” and that the prosecution was “working with the police” on getting, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, to become state witness. He asked reporters to “let us work in peace and find the truth.”
- Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
According to recent reports by Haaretz, the information he provided allegedly indicated criminal connections between Harow, the prime minister and people in the prime minister’s circles.
The two cases mentioned in the police request are known as Case 1000, which involves Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who was asked to purchase luxury items for Netanyahu and his wife; and Case 2000, in which Netanyahu tried to concoct a deal with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
Harow, who is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, aggravated fraud and money laundering, was also a key figure in a case that the police did not pursue. He headed the American Friends of Likud, which allegedly paid the salary of Odelia Karmon, an adviser to Netanyahu when the prime minister, who heads the Likud party, was opposition leader.
- During the investigation of Harow, police confiscated his cell phone, and found recordings documenting the Netanyahu-Mozes conversations that are the basis of the Case 2000 probe.
- In the Karmon case, the attorney general did not believe that investigators would be able to produce evidence justifying a criminal indictment for alleged offenses that are subject in any event to a 10-year statute of limitations.
- Senior law enforcement officials believed, however, that the investigation should have been pursued, especially in light of recordings of Karmon that were obtained by police in which she described the sequence of events after she received her salary.
“Bibi became insanely hysterical, all of a sudden. I don’t know who whispered to him, after all, you can light him up like a flame … and then he said to me: Odelia, give back the money.”
In the recording, Karmon also mentioned Harow: “He plied Netanyahu with many things. Flight tickets or whenever Netanyahu was in a bind. But not in exchange for anything. He was honest and sweet. He was simply helpless.”
Little Doubt: Netanyahu Will Be Indicted
Netanyahu’s prosecutors wouldn’t sign a deal with someone in as bad a legal shape as Ari Harow unless they knew he could deliver damning evidence. An indictment is all but in the bag
The state’s witness agreement reached between the prosecution and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former aide, Ari Harow, on Friday has one virtually irreversible implication:
An indictment against Netanyahu is coming.
Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harow supplied information in two key affairs:
- Allegations that the prime minister received gifts from wealthy benefactors, and
- secret negotiations Netanyahu allegedly held with the publisher of Israel’s most popular newspaper in return for favorable coverage.
Under his deal with the prosecution, Harow will be convicted of fraud and breach of trust in a separate case, but will avoid jail time. Instead, he will do community service as to pay a 700,000-shekel ($193,000) fine.
If top officials in the police and prosecution believed that the agreement wouldn’t yield significant information that will strengthen and perhaps even complete the evidence in the two corruption cases, they wouldn’t have signed it. There’s no point in helping out a suspect in a legal condition as bad as Harow’s if no real compensation is given in return. This isn’t the final word, of course, but the direction is clear.
Over the weekend, the prosecution decided to impose a gag order on the details Harow had provided during his interrogation. The gag orders have become an epidemic: the details of the Bezeq and submarine affairs are also under wraps.
It’s doubtful whether there really is a need for such an unrestrained hush-hush policy, which stands in conflict with the position taken by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit in his first months in office, when he labeled these orders as publicity-enhancing ones.
Making allowances for the gag order, one can assume that Harow will deepen both cases against Netanyahu, taking them to a faraway continent while making at least one key player in this affair a criminal suspect. It will probably also seal the fate of Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes.
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One should not expect any decisions to be taken before the High Holidays. Harow’s testimony should produce versions to be collected by people living in Israel and overseas.
It will obviously necessitate a further interrogation of Netanyahu who, surprisingly, has not been questioned since last March despite the bolstering of evidence accumulated in the two cases, which should have required his immediate response. The possibility that Harow would turn state’s witness arose a year ago.
When the gag order is lifted it may be possible to relate the interesting dialogue that ensued between him and his lawyers on one hand and police investigators and state prosecutors on the other, regarding the explosive recordings of the talks between Netanyahu and Mozes, and regarding the circumstances that led the trusted confidant, who at the age of 34 was already serving in key posts at the Prime Minister’s Office, to cross the lines.
This is probably not the final dramatic twist in the Netanyahu cases. When members of this complicated inner circle see the empire crumbling and the leader taking a dive they usually calculate their own personal and immediate benefits.
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