A former top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who recently turned state’s witness in an investigation against the premier reportedly received a $105,000 consulting fee from a group tied to conservative Jewish-American billionaire Ronald Lauder upon leaving the Prime Minister’s Office.
While it was not clear what Ari Harow was paid for by the US group One Jerusalem, whose stated goal is “keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty,” the sum was considered especially high for the organization and constituted a significant chunk of its budget in 2010, the Haaretz daily reported Wednesday.
Shortly after his resignation as Netanyahu’s bureau chief in 2010, the American-born Harow founded the consulting firm 3H Global, which he is under investigation for allegedly fictitiously selling upon his return as Netanyahu’s bureau chief in 2014.
Last week, Harow turned state’s witness in a pair of ongoing corruption investigations into Netanyahu, with police announcing that Harow is expected to receive six months of community service and a NIS 700,000 fine ($193,000) on breach of trust charges in exchange for his testimony against his former boss.
According to the Haaretz report, the director of One Jerusalem, which is now known as Americans for Jerusalem, at the time Harow received the consulting fee was Allan Roth, one of Lauder’s closest associates.
Roth is also the president of the conservative NGO Secure America Now, which opposed the reelection of former US president Barack Obama and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
While Lauder was considered to have been a prominent Netanyahu backer for years, the two reportedly had a falling out six years ago after Lauder refused to block a report from Channel 10 — which he partly owns — on alleged corruption by the prime minister and his wife, Sara.
Among One Jerusalem’s most prominent activities over the years was a 2001 rally attended by hundreds of thousands of people protesting any division of Israel’s capital in a future peace deal with the Palestinians, as well as a multi-million-dollar campaign protesting the 2007 Annapolis peace conference.
According to Haaretz, the latter campaign was led by West Bank settlement activist Yechiel Leiter, who went on to work alongside Harow at 3H Global.
One Jerusalem also contributed money to the right-wing Israeli advocacy group Im Tirzu together with another organization called Shining City, a number of whose directors have been linked to Netanyahu.
Although the large sum paid to Harow was considered unusual, the Haaretz report did not outline anything improper concerning the payment of the fee.
As part of the deal to turn state’s witness, Harow is reported to have “incriminated” Netanyahu in what is known as Case 2000, which involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between the prime minister and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, through Knesset legislation in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Channel 2 said that Harow told police that he was asked by Netanyahu to practically “advance matters” that came up in the Netanyahu-Mozes conversations.
Hebrew media reported last week that police are expected to recommend charges be brought against Netanyahu in Case 2000 and another case, known as Case 1000, involving alleged illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. The reports came after police explicitly said for the first time that the corruption investigations involving Netanyahu deal with “bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” alought police stopped short of saying that the Israeli leader was directly suspected of these crimes.
Harow is expected to provide information in both probes, having served as chief of staff during the time of the alleged deal with Mozes and while Netanyahu is said to have received gifts worth thousands of shekels.
Despite the wave of unfavorable reports and growing calls for him to resign, Netanyahu has sought to play down the significance of the developments, saying in a video last week just hours after the Harow deal was announced that investigations against him were “background noise” and that he was focused on working on behalf of Israeli citizens.