Israeli police are expected to recommend charges be brought against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a pair of corruption cases against the Israeli premier, amid a newly signed deal with a key associate of the prime minister to turn state’s witness.
Hebrew media reported Friday that police will recommend filing indictments against Netanyahu in two cases — Case 1000 and Case 2000 — as the investigations appear to be strengthened by “significant material” provided by Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and aide, Ari Harow.
A police recommendation does not carry legal weight. It is for state prosecutors to decide whether to press charges.
According to a statement from the Israel Police Friday, 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.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving 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.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu 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.
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.
Channel 2 reported Friday that Harow was sent by Netanyahu to finalize the deal with Mozes, giving him — and police — first-hand knowledge of the suspected deal. Harow reportedly gave police details on the understandings reached between Netanyahu and Mozes, strengthening the police case beyond recordings discovered on Harow’s computer of their meetings in late 2014 and early 2015. This information comes from a separate police investigation into Harow’s affairs on suspicion he used his ties to Netanyahu to advance his private business interests
That investigation was launched in mid-2015. Police have recommended Harow be indicted for bribery and breach of trust in the case, but the attorney general has yet to file formal charges.
Harow is also expected to provide details on the method of gift-giving to the Netanyahus by Milchan and the prime minister’s awareness of it. Netanyahu is a primary suspect in the case; both he and his wife have denied wrongdoing.
In a Friday evening video before the start of Shabbat, Netanyahu said the investigations against him were “background noise” and that he was focused on working on behalf of Israeli citizens. It came hours after the deal with Harow was announced.
In a Friday interview with Channel 2, Likud MK David Bitan, the coalition chairman and a close associate of Netanyahu, said it was “unpleasant” that someone like Harow, who once worked closely with the prime minister, would now testify against him, but argued that Netanyahu could “handle it.”
Bitan went on to warn Likud ministers who have not publicly supported Netanyahu that the party will “settle scores” with them in the primaries.
Another Likud MK, Amir Ohana, told Channel 10 that Harow could not be trusted because of his own suspected wrongdoing and went on to dismiss the deal between Harow and the police, saying it was an indication that the police had “no evidence” against Netanyahu.
A former adviser to Netanyahu, Odelia Carmon, told Channel 2 that Harow was definitely “someone in the know” with regards to the inner workings of Netanyahu’s dealings and assessed that Netanyahu was “losing sleep” over the development.
Channel 2 further reported that senior Likud officials were holding talks on contingency plans if Netanyahu resigns or is indicted, and that leaders of other parties in the coalition were holding off on dissolving the government until there was more clarity on where the police investigations were headed.
Police on Thursday 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.
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.