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August 11, 2017 10:44 am

The Ari Harow That I Know

avatar by Avi Winter

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Ari Harow. Photo: Provided.

If you didn’t know any better, you might think that Ari Harow is a celebrity, given all of the media coverage since it was reported that Harow may provide evidence regarding fraud and bribery allegations against Benjamin Netanyahu.

But things are rarely black and white. And the real essence of Ari Harow has been lost amid the media circus. The truth is that Harow is a modest, dedicated and highly-regarded public servant. He has unwittingly been caught up in an episode that is much less about him, and has everything to do with Netanyahu.

Ari Harow is a personal friend of mine. And even though he served twice in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) — as Netanyahu’s bureau chief in 2009 and then as chief of staff in 2014 — he has never been a household name. Harow’s relative anonymity means that it is especially important to clear up the misperceptions that have taken hold about him.

Harow has agreed to become what many have termed a “state’s witness.” But that is a misleading description. He is no Shula Zaken — the confidant of Ehud Olmert, who helped the former prime minister pocket large sums of money through corruption. Harow is not accused of having anything to do with the alleged crimes suspected of his former boss. I believe that Harow is simply being targeted for having been one of Netanyahu’s most trusted and dedicated aides.

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The authorities apparently believe that if anyone has key information on Netanyahu, it is Harow. And they seem to be prepared to apply almost unbearable pressure in order to extract it. Harow’s home was searched by officers shortly before his daughter’s bat mitzvah; on another occasion, he was taken for questioning directly after a long international flight, in full view of the public.

Even the actual allegations leveled at Harow are curious. He is accused of having fictitiously sold a consulting firm that he founded, and then to have continued running the business while serving as the prime minister’s chief of staff. Not only did Harow, by most accounts, comply with the authorities in every aspect of the sale, but the suggestion that he would have had time to oversee a business while personally dealing with some of Israel’s most challenging and weighty issues seems unlikely in the extreme.

This is especially true when you consider Harow’s reputation. Although I can personally testify to his integrity, honesty and dedication to the State of Israel, these traits are probably best expressed by Harow’s former colleagues. These include people like former-Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, who described Harow as someone who “operated with dignity,” and “often sacrificed his personal interest for the public.” Meanwhile, a former director general of the PMO, Eyal Gabbai, called him “a Zionist and a patriot, devoted to the state and his job.”

In fact, one of the striking features of the intense media commentary on the saga is the near total absence of anyone with a bad word to say about Harow. This is a rare thing, indeed, in the highly-charged and polarized world of politics.

In fact, even some of Harow’s natural adversaries have openly spoken highly of him. HaBayit HaYehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who has occasionally found himself at loggerheads with Netanyahu, has wished Harow well, calling him a “decent, honest Zionist.” And investigative journalist Raviv Drucker, a man considered Netanyahu’s prime media adversary, summed up Harow’s position this week, asking, “The disturbing riddle is how someone like Harow …who is genuinely far removed from any criminal thinking, got into such trouble?”

The answer to Drucker’s question is simple. The knives are out for Netanyahu; there is a serious attempt to bring him down. And Harow is a sacrificial lamb. Others will also likely find themselves in the firing line along the way. They too should be judged on their own merits. In Harow’s case, the verdict is clear: A passionate Zionist determined to further Israel’s interests, has been caught up in a high stakes game, where the prize is nothing less than the country’s sitting prime minister.

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