|Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post|
Liberman: I don't plan to read indictment
By GIL HOFFMAN
Former foreign minister attacks A-G for indicting him without cause; FM Deputy Ayalon takes over Foreign Ministry.
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman said on Thursday he does not regret any
actions that might have led to his indictment on charges of fraud and breach of
trust in the Belarus ambassador affair, and he believes he did nothing
In an interview with Channel 2, Liberman admitted that he had not
read the decision of Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and said he did not
intend to read it.
But he accused the State Attorney’s Office of
"I still do not understand what I did wrong,” Liberman said. “Maybe
it’s because I am a new immigrant or a settler or I have a beard or a strong
Russian accent, maybe they think that’s absolute proof that I am a recurrent
criminal. The top legal experts in they country say that if a law was broken it
is not criminal, it is merely disciplinary.”
Liberman defended Ze’ev
Ben-Aryeh, whom he appointed as ambassador to Latvia, despite his breaking the
law by providing him with information about the investigation against him in
Belarus when he was ambassador there.
“I don’t punish a normative man,
who is a scholar respected by all, for what he did at a moment of weakness,”
“As I said when I was questioned, in hindsight if I would
have such a situation again, I would behave exactly the same
Liberman stressed that he did not intend to reach a plea bargain,
because he wanted to defend himself in court.
Weinstein on decided on
Wednesday night not to formally issue the indictment against Liberman until more
witnesses testified and Liberman underwent further questioning. The additional
testimony, which began on Thursday, could take time, because members of the
selection committee who approved the controversial appointment of Ben-Aryeh have
since taken diplomatic posts overseas.
Legal officials said it had become
very unlikely that even an expedited trial could be completed by the time the
next cabinet was expected to form, in February or March. Liberman is unlikely to
be appointed a minister until the trial is over.
By law, Danny Ayalon’s
term as deputy foreign minister ended on Tuesday morning when Liberman’s
resignation took effect and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu became acting
But Ayalon’s reappointment passed in a telephone call
of cabinet ministers and took effect when it was announced in the Knesset on
“I accepted the request of the prime minister and
will continue to serve in the foreign service in order to uphold Israel’s vital
interests,” Ayalon told the Knesset.
Ayalon’s associates said he had
never stopped working during the two days for which he had officially lost his
title. They expressed confidence that he could improve the country’s foreign
relations now that Liberman was out of the way.
“Things will be different
under Netanyahu than they were under Liberman,” an Ayalon associate
“Netanyahu will let him lead the ministry. He will be acting
minister. Danny will be the ultimate professional, especially now that he is
free of any political obligations.”
Netanyahu and Ayalon will meet over
the weekend to coordinate their foreign policy strategy on key issues, sources
close to Ayalon said on Thursday.
Those issues include improving ties
with the Obama administration and handling international condemnation of
construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
Ayalon has yet to be
questioned in the Belarus Ambassador Affair. Sources close to Ayalon stressed
that Liberman’s decision not to include him on Yisrael Beytenu’s list of
candidates in the January 22 election would not affect how he testified.