Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday dismissed the corruption probes gathering pace against him this week, calling them “background noise,” hours after police announced that his former chief of staff signed a deal to turn state’s witness.
In a short video posted early Friday evening before the start of Shabbat, Netanyahu said: “I want to tell you, citizens of Israel, I don’t pay attention to the background noises, I continue in my work on behalf of you. Shabbat shalom.”
In the video, the prime minister gave a short summary of the events this past week and started by wishing a speedy recovery to the Israeli man seriously injured in a terror attack this week in Yavneh. He went on to praise efforts to complete construction for a new settlement — the first in 25 years — for evacuees of the illegal outpost of Amona, gave a quick update on the diplomatic front — hailing Cape Verde’s announcement that it will no longer vote against Israel at the UN (“That’s good!” he said) — and commended Israel’s security forces for their efforts to maintain safety and security for Israeli citizens.
Netanyahu then appeared to address the ongoing investigations as an afterthought, beginning that segment with “Oh, right, we can’t [sign off] without [addressing] the parashat hashavua [weekly Torah portion],” in reference to the escalating reports this week on the probes.
The video came hours after police said that Ari Harow, a former chief of staff and aide to Netanyahu, signed a deal on Friday to turn state’s witness as part of the ongoing investigations into alleged corruption by Israel’s premier.
שבת שלום לעם ישראל! pic.twitter.com/ipDhusb4B5
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) August 4, 2017
According to a statement from the Israel Police, 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.
News of the deal, seen by observers as a turning point in the police investigations, follows a gag order imposed Thursday on details pertaining to the case.
It came a day after Israel Police explicitly said for the first time that a number of corruption investigations involving Netanyahu deal with “bribery, fraud and breach of trust.” The police stopped short of saying that the Israeli leader was directly suspected of these crimes.
Harow has been under investigation since mid-2015 on suspicion of using his ties to Netanyahu to advance his private business interests. Police have recommended he be indicted for bribery and breach of trust in the case, but the attorney general has yet to file formal charges.
The investigations into Harow sparked at least one corruption investigation of Netanyahu himself, after investigators uncovered recordings on Harow’s computer of meetings between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes in late 2014 and early 2015. In the recordings, the two seemed to discuss an illicit quid pro quo deal 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.
That investigation, dubbed Case 2000 by police, is ongoing, as is a separate corruption investigation — Case 1000 — into allegations the prime minister received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors.
Harow is reportedly willing 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.
Netanyahu has consistently denied wrongdoing.
Harow first worked for Netanyahu as foreign affairs adviser during his stint as leader of the opposition. He then spearheaded the 2009 election campaign that catapulted Netanyahu back into office. Following the election, he served as the prime minister’s bureau chief until 2010, managing Netanyahu’s schedule and advising him on a range of issues.
Harow took a break from politics in 2010, when he founded 3H Global. He later returned as chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014, serving there for a year before leaving to run the 2015 election campaign for Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.