Several members of a Foreign Ministry appointments panel were never questioned
in regard to the investigation involving outgoing Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman and former Belarusian ambassador Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, according to a report
that surfaced Monday night.
Information from those sources could
contradict Liberman’s story in the Belarus Ambassador Affair, signaling a
possible breakthrough in the case against the outgoing foreign
According to a Channel 10 report Monday night, some members of
a Foreign Ministry appointments panel – who were never questioned in the
investigation – say Liberman actively pushed for Ben- Aryeh’s promotion in the
Until now, Liberman has maintained and the prosecution has
accepted, that his main alleged criminal act was not actively revealing to the
appointments committee Ben-Aryeh’s illegal conduct.
his resignation as foreign minister on Friday after his indictment on charges of
fraud and breach of trust last week, but remains an MK and head of the Yisrael
Ben-Aryeh was forced to resign from the Foreign Ministry
after he confessed last year to passing classified information on to Liberman
regarding an investigation into the foreign minister. The Justice Ministry
requested in 2008 that Ben-Aryeh pass on a document requesting legal assistance
from the Belarusian authorities in an investigation of Liberman, and Ben-Aryeh
copied the information and gave it to Liberman. Ben-Aryeh was convicted for his actions of obstruction of
justice in June.
At least one panel member said Liberman later pushed for
Ben- Aryeh’s promotion in the ministry.
“I’m not senile and I remember
exactly what happened there,” said one of the eight members of a Foreign
Ministry appointments panel who has not been questioned as of yet. If the report
is proven true, it could lead to new, more serious charges and could hurt
The report also said that Deputy Foreign Minister
Danny Ayalon, who sat on the panel and is still currently No. 2 in Yisrael
Beytenu, was not questioned.
Responding to the report, Liberman’s
spokesman said that all of the protocols of the investigations until now are
public and available, and that any new anonymous accusers should “come forward”
and not hide. It was not clear Monday evening why the panel members were not
questioned in the investigation and why they waited until now to come
Earlier on Monday, after meeting with Attorney-General Yehuda
Weinstein to discuss issues relating to the indictment pending against their
client in the Belarus Ambassador Affair, Liberman’s attorneys, including lead
attorney Giorda Aderet, said it was possible to fast-track the
Prior to the meeting, media reports had suggested that Liberman’s
attorneys requested the meeting in order to examine the possibility of reaching
a plea bargain with the attorney-general.
But following the meeting, the
attorneys did not mention a plea bargain and did not provide specific estimates
about how fast the trial could proceed, or if it could conclude before the
January election or the formation of a new government.
With no plea
bargain in sight, the indictment could possibly be submitted as early as
The Justice Ministry offered no comment on the
Until now, all leaks regarding a plea bargain appear to have
come from Liberman’s camp, although on Sunday he denied seeking a deal and said
he was happy to clear his name in court.
A plea bargain would help
Liberman avoid a conviction of “moral turpitude,” which would bar him from
holding public office for seven years.
Government Services Minister
Michael Eitan (Likud) wrote Weinstein a letter on Monday urging him not to deem
Liberman’s indictment as lacking moral turpitude, warning that such a step would
shame the entire country.
Eitan said Liberman should have known Ben-Aryeh
was unfit to be an ambassador because he tried to give him information about the
investigations against him.
“By taking such steps, Ben- Aryeh became an
unacceptable candidate to represent Israel, and he even became dangerous,” Eitan
wrote Weinstein. “By violating his loyalty to the state and its laws, the
ambassador became a security risk with wide access to classified information
about the country’s defense, internal security and diplomatic
It should have been clear to Liberman that Ben-Aryeh should
have been prevented from becoming an ambassador.”
Eitan said that by
appointing Ben-Aryeh, Liberman put his own personal interests over those of the
state. He said he believed Liberman attempted to appoint Ben-Aryeh in order to
receive future services from him.
Kadima MK Dalia Itzik came to
Liberman’s defense, blasting Weinstein and the State Attorney’s Office for
initiating the indictment.
“I don’t know what they know now that they
didn’t know before,” Itzik said. “Why did they have to do it a month before the
election? It [causes] the public’s faith in the State Attorney’s Office to
deteriorate. It is legal torture and it looks bad.”
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