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Liberman calls legal rumors 'false manipulations'
By JPOST.COM STAFF, YONAH JEREMY BOB, HERB KEINON,
25/12/2012
Former foreign minister says media reports surrounding allegations against him are disconnected from reality.
 
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday dismissed a flood of “rumors and quotes” about the Belarus Ambassador Affair, asserting they have no connection to reality.

Liberman issued a statement dismissing the reports the morning after Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon unequivocally denied reports broadcast Monday night by both Channel 2 and Channel 10, which claimed he was a main source of new allegations against his former boss.

The allegations concern the indictment against Liberman in the so-called Belarus Ambassador Affair, with more serious accusations that could lead to new charges of active, rather than passive, fraud.

Ayalon’s reported statements would also contradict Liberman’s version, in which he took no active role in the affair. The prosecution and police both refused to confirm or deny whether Ayalon was recently questioned.

An added angle 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.

Liberman said that he wanted to emphasize that rumors and quotes attributed to him and his “associates” that were circulating in the media, “did not exist... and their purpose was not particularly sophisticated manipulation, to disrupt the proceedings and throw sand in the eyes of the public.”

According to the broadcasts, Ayalon 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 panel that was considering Ben-Aryeh for a new posting in Latvia.

In another development Tuesday, the Israel Broadcasting Authority redistributed an interview that Ayalon did before Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein decided to indict Liberman, in which Ayalon denied any wrongdoing by Liberman. The interview is significant because it includes the most detailed known comments from Ayalon on record, and since he made the comments before knowing what Weinstein would decide.

In the interview, Ayalon noted that “seven to eight panel members passed unanimously” on Ben-Aryeh’s candidacy.

Pressed on whether Liberman interfered in the appointment, Ayalon said, “I don’t remember, I definitely don’t remember anything like that.” He added that it was no different than any of the appointments he presided over during his four years.

Curiously, Ayalon stated that “there are protocols” of all the proceedings to review, despite the fact that most reports have indicated that there was no protocol for the Ben-Aryeh appointment,.

Earlier in the day, panel member and former foreign ministry director-general Yoav Biran said that the appointments panel “acted professionally” in its dealings with Ben-Aryeh, Army Radio reported. Biran said he did not remember anything out of the ordinary during the proceedings, although he admitted that he did not know what might or might not have happened behind the scenes, said the report.

Late Tuesday night, Channel 10 reported that Liberman may get questioned as early as later in the evening, or at the latest Wednesday morning.

Media reports also indicated there were internal Foreign Ministry disputes about the fact that some of Liberman’s staff was still running the ministry, despite his resignation.

One of Liberman’s advisers said there was nothing wrong with them remaining in their positions and that they had severed official contact with Liberman in their professional capacities.

The new allegations against Liberman, which started to surface last week, said 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.

Other 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 process. Liberman maintains that Ben-Aryeh was an able diplomat who was well-suited for the job.

One foreign 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, Ben-Aryeh did not distinguish himself as a diplomat worthy of such a posting after having just recently returned from Belarus.

Herb Keinon and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.
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