All of the fuss in Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman’s trial for
fraud and breach of public trust has been about ex-deputy foreign minister Danny
Ayalon, who was once Liberman’s lieutenant and has been touted as a star witness
in the case.
It is understandable that those who are not legal experts
have this misconception.
For one, it makes for fantastic and
One moment Ayalon was defending Liberman and his
record to the hilt, as the two of them jointly ran Israel’s foreign policy and
were in the top echelon of the same political party. The next moment, Ayalon –
essentially tossed unceremoniously out of public service after a distinguished
career when he was dropped, still without any real explanation, from the party’s
list – was the star witness against Liberman, in an incredible poetic
The only problem is that so far, nothing Ayalon has said publicly
would sink Liberman at trial.
Politically Ayalon has lashed out at him
and said he should not be reappointed foreign minister, noting both that
Liberman has been called unrepeatable names in foreign capitals all over the
world and that he did not have the temperament for foreign minister. Instead,
Ayalon suggested that the Finance Ministry may be a better fit for
Slightly closer to home, the former deputy foreign minister said
that Liberman tried to push for several inappropriate or incompetent
political-style appointments. While this may sound incriminating, in the next
breath, Ayalon added that the push to appoint former ambassador Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh,
for whom the Belarusan Ambassador Affair is named, to be the envoy to Latvia was
Not only has he said that Liberman did not push for him in any
inappropriate fashion, Ayalon declared that Ben- Aryeh was fit for the job. He
also stated that in cases of undeserving candidates, Liberman always backed down
from the appointments upon receiving Ayalon’s advice.
If one does not
view Ayalon as biased – obviously a big if – at most, one could say Liberman was
not a good foreign minister, but Ayalon explicitly shoots down any possible
legal attack on the appointments process.
Aside from that, Ayalon has no
special knowledge of the original event in the case – Ben-Aryeh illegally giving
Liberman classified information in the investigation against him for
Unfortunately for Liberman though, when
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein decided to indict him, it was not based on
Ayalon, who at the time had inexplicably not been interrogated yet.
case against Liberman is about Ben-Aryeh. The former ambassador cut a plea
bargain deal with the prosecution and got four months of community service for
what could have been a much harsher sentence.
The state does not cut
deals out of the goodness of its heart; it cuts deals to nail bigger
Make no mistake, Ben- Aryeh will be Liberman’s main
In fact, if he strays too far from the story he told the state,
it is not inconceivable for his deal to be reopened, although that is
Liberman may be able to attack Ben-Aryeh’s credibility,
just as former prime minister Ehud Olmert successfully attacked the credibility
of star witnesses against him. He may be able to argue that Ben-Aryeh
misunderstood Liberman’s mental state or intent upon receiving the
There are reportedly other Foreign Ministry employees that
will take shots at Liberman and may build the state’s case. Even Ayalon may help
the state’s case if it can convince the court to interpret his testimony on
Liberman in a negative light.
But to the extent that Liberman needs to
worry about this case, Ben-Aryeh is the real star witness from a legal
perspective and the fate of the former foreign minister is likely to rise or
fall on his word.