|Photo by: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office|
Ayalon: I never testified against Liberman
By YONAH JEREMY BOB, HERB KEINON AND BEN HARTMAN
Deputy foreign minister denies reports by Channel 2, 10 claiming he gave police testimony against his former boss.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon unequivocally denied reports broadcast
Monday night by both Channel 2 and Channel 10 which claimed he had given police
testimony against his former boss, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor
The allegations concern the indictment against the former
foreign minister in the so-called Belarus Ambassador Affair, with more serious
accusations that could lead to new charges of active, rather than passive,
Ayalon’s reported statements would also contradict Liberman’s
version, in which he took no active role in the affair.
A short time
after the programs were aired, Ayalon denied in a written statement that he was
even questioned by police, and Liberman maintained his innocence on all
What gives these reports a soap-opera feel is that earlier this
month Liberman, in a complete surprise, left Ayalon off his party’s list of
candidates for the next Knesset as part of the merged Likud- Beytenu list.
According to the Channel 2 report, the Yisrael Beytenu party leader is expected
to try to defend himself by saying Ayalon was taking revenge.
also expected, according to Channel 2, to point to an earlier interview by
Ayalon in which he supposedly said he did not remember the events surrounding
the allegations against Liberman.
The prosecution and the police both
refused to confirm or deny whether Ayalon was recently
According to the broadcasts, the deputy foreign minister was
questioned only recently about the affair, which until then had only involved
allegations that former ambassador Ze’ev Ben- Aryeh leaked investigative
material to Liberman, after which Liberman passively withheld information on
this from a Foreign Ministry committee that was considering Ben-Aryeh for a new
posting in Latvia.
The new allegations against Liberman, which started to
surface last week, are that he did not just passively withhold information, but
actively interfered in the appointment process on Ben-Aryeh’s behalf.
reports also said that 10 candidates originally had sought the Latvia position,
but most dropped out when promised other promotions – possibly by Liberman
through other Foreign Ministry officials speaking on his behalf.
media reports have alleged that Liberman concealed negative reports about
Ben-Aryeh from the appointments committee. Yediot Aharonot quoted sources who
said that “the influence of Liberman” was pervasive throughout the
Liberman maintains that Ben-Aryeh was an able diplomat who was
well-suited for the job.
The new allegations, which the reports said stem
primarily from Ayalon – who was head of the appointments committee and was
involved in the proceedings – would move the charges from the realm of passive
fraud to active fraud, with potentially more serious applicable punishments and
The Channel 10 report added that several other
witnesses from the appointments committee confirmed and reinforced Ayalon’s
statements regarding Liberman’s alleged conduct.
Channel 2 reported that
Liberman would be requestioned this coming weekend regarding the new
Also on Monday, the State Comptroller’s Office formally
confirmed that it had received requests to investigate Attorney-General Yehuda
Weinstein’s handling of the Liberman case.
Liberman and many other
politicians have questioned Weinstein’s decision to delay an indictment so he
could investigate the new charges after the attorney-general announced he would
file the indictment last week, and after Liberman had already resigned as
A spokeswoman for the YAHBAL serious and international crimes unit, which investigated the Liberman
case, on Monday refused to explain why the case was reopened – when just last
week she had said the unit considered the matter closed.
She added that
the case was, from the unit’s point of view, complete, and as it had been handed
over to the prosecutor, it was his office that was responsible for providing
answers about the recent developments.
Media reports indicated that there
may have been disagreements between the prosecution and the police about
reopening the case for more questioning, but it is Weinstein who ultimately will
make the final decision.
On Sunday, the state explained its decision to
reopen the case for further questioning based on a Channel 10 news report from
last week indicating that the fraud allegations against Liberman could be
amended to include active fraud instead of mere passive fraud.
ministry source said that while it was not unusual for foreign ministers to
indicate their preferences for ministerial posts, what made this case different
was the allegation that Liberman received something from Ben-Aryeh beforehand.
Furthermore, the source said, Ben-Aryeh did not distinguish himself as a
diplomat worthy of such a posting after having just recently returned from
Generally, diplomats spend two years back in Israel before being
appointed to another position abroad. Ben-Aryeh was in Israel for less than a
year after returning from Belarus before being appointed envoy to Latvia.