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Report: Ex-Netanyahu adviser says PM ‘panicked,’ tried to cover up salary

Odelia Karmon tells police her salary was paid by American Friends of Likud, later gave back money at Netanyahu’s prodding; A-G has closed probe into matter

Odelia Karmon (YouTube screenshot)
Odelia Karmon (YouTube screenshot)

Odelia Karmon, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he served as leader of the opposition, reportedly told police her former boss attempted to cover up payments she received from a US non-profit while under his employment, according to recordings obtained by the Haaretz daily on Friday.

Karmon was being investigated as part of one of the preliminary probes into the prime minister, which has since been closed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

According to Haaretz, this particular case involved US-born Ari Harow, who headed American Friends of Likud from 2003-2006 and served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief between 2008-2010, and again in 2014.

Suspicions arose that American Friends of Likud financed overseas trips for Netanyahu’s wife Sara and underwrote the salary of Karmon at a cost of $10,000 per month. The period that had been under investigation was prior to 2009, when Harow was in charge. Netanyahu returned to the prime minister’s chair in 2009 and has remained in power since.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow (left) and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow (left) and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to Karmon, after working for Netanyahu for a year and being paid by American Friends of Likud during that period, the then-opposition lawmaker panicked and tried to cover his tracks.

“He was in a panic … he told me Odelia, so they won’t be able to talk, give back the money,” she said. “Bibi went into insane hysteria, suddenly. I don’t know who tipped him off, after all, you can light him up like a flame … and then he said to me: Odelia, give back the money.”

Netanyahu subsequently paid Karmon over NIS 50,000 ($13,000) from his private bank account and his attorney, David Shimron, wrote a letter to the American Friends of Likud explaining on her behalf that she was returning the money because she did not end up doing the work.

“Bibi forced Shimron to write a letter that I sent to the association. ‘Thank you very much for paying me but because I did not do so much work I’m returning the money.’ Is there anything more stupid?” Karmon was quoted as saying. According to Haaretz, Harow received such a letter from Karmon.

When Sara Netanyahu found out that Karmon was paid from their personal bank account, “she was upset,” said Karmon.

“She said I took her children’s food [out of their mouths]. I proposed that we meet to clarify the matter but Netanyahu didn’t let her speak to me. He is afraid of all the things I know. All the secrets,” Karmon said. She told police she later met with Shimron and told him she wanted to return the money.

The former adviser described working with the Netanyahus “like Russian roulette. Nobody gets out alive.”

The probe into Netanyahu for which Harow and Karmon were summoned for questioning, has since been halted by the attorney general.

The Prime Minister’s Office on Friday dismissed the claims by Karmon as “all nonsense.”

“Since Netanyahu’s victory in the last election and even before them, elements hostile to the prime minister are making major efforts to bring down the prime minister by making false accusations against him and his family,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement to Haaretz.

“These elements in the media and their agents and exacting unceasing pressure on the police, the prosecution and the attorney general to launch a criminal investigation against the prime minister. Their baseless claims are an utter lie and the will be shown to be fabrications. We reiterate: there was nothing, there will be nothing — because there is nothing.”

Harow began working as a foreign affairs adviser to Netanyahu in 2007, while the latter was in the opposition, and Netanyahu appointed him bureau chief in 2008. Harow left politics in 2010 to start a political consultancy firm, which works with politicians and political campaigns. He served a second stint as the PM’s bureau chief in 2014, and directed the election campaign that kept Netanyahu in office in the 2015 national elections.

Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Ari Harow, former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a Likud meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In December 2015, Harow was questioned under caution on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust, and was held under house arrest for five days.

In July, he was detained for questioning at Ben Gurion Airport and grilled for 14 hours in connection with the suspected financial violations involving Netanyahu.

During recent months, the police have been investigating several cases relating to Netanyahu and his associates.

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