Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman told his then-deputy, Danny Ayalon,
that he wanted Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh appointed as Israel’s ambassador to Latvia,
Ayalon said on Thursday while testifying during the trial against
Ayalon also told the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court that Yossi
Gal, then director-general of the Foreign Ministry, informed him that Sharon
Shalom, then Liberman’s chief of staff, had asked the director-general to
appoint Ben-Aryeh as ambassador.
Liberman is accused of fraud and breach
of public trust in the case, referred to as the Belarusan Ambassador Affair, but
denies all of the charges.
The two main aspects alleged in the case are that Liberman failed to report Ben-Aryeh, who illegally showed him classified
material in an investigation against him, and that subsequently he actively
promoted Ben-Aryeh getting the Latvia position as “payment.”
his main meeting with Liberman about Ben- Aryeh (he testified that there were
actually three conversations), Ayalon said that most of the meeting was devoted
to foreign policy issues.
But at the end of the meeting, as Ayalon was
preparing to leave, Liberman told him he wanted Ben-Aryeh appointed ambassador
Ayalon maintained that it was Liberman’s right as foreign
minister to be involved in the appointment, as all foreign ministers
He added that he saw his job as Liberman’s deputy to carry out
Liberman’s will, including appointments, while qualifying that he resisted in a
few cases if he thought the appointment was problematic.
Ayalon said he
never asked Liberman why he wanted to appoint Ben-Aryeh and had never seen the
negative report about Ben-Aryeh by former Foreign Ministry head inspector Victor
Harel, but assumed at the time it was because of his appropriate experience and
language skills for the job.
He also said that he thought it unnecessary
to question Liberman about the appointment, as he considered Liberman “an expert
in the former USSR” countries and assumed Liberman’s support came based on that
Ayalon was also confronted with a number of
potential issues with his testimony.
An interview he gave on Channel 1
while still deputy foreign minister was played for him in which he said Liberman
had nothing to do with Ben-Aryeh’s appointment.
Confronted with his
statements in the interview, Ayalon said that he could not possibly “incriminate
the sitting foreign minister of Israel” in a public interview, with all of the
consequences that would have, including for the state itself.
clarified that essentially, while still a high-ranking government officer, he
felt obligated to cover for Liberman, while making it clear that in court and
before police he was “in a legal forum” and was “obligated to tell the
Accused of testifying against Liberman in retaliation for the
Yisrael Beytenu chairman throwing him out of his job and the party, the former
deputy minister said his firing had no impact on his testimony against his
When Liberman told him he was off the Yisrael Beytenu party
list, Ayalon said he was “shocked, disappointed, and that it was bad for the
nation of Israel, but I was not angry.”
He added that the accusations of
retaliation “were not correct and hurt me.”
Next, Ayalon was questioned
about why he told police that he had a meeting with both Gal and then-head of
human resources for the Foreign Ministry, Shimon Roded, to agree between the
three of them on appointing Ben-Aryeh as Liberman’s choice, when his journal
said that he only met with Gal and not Roded.
Ayalon said that he was
first questioned by police almost by surprise while he was in the Knesset
dealing with complex budgetary issues and that his memory had been imperfect
He said that he initially assumed that Roded had been
present, because usually Roded – as head of human resources – was present for
such regular meetings, but that after consulting his journal, he realized he
must have spoken to Roded separately about Liberman’s support for
Jacob Weinroth, Liberman’s lawyer, thundered back at Ayalon
that really what had happened was that he had “created a conversation” with
Liberman about Ben-Aryeh “which never happened” to help cover up the fact that
his initial story to police had inconsistencies, including with what was in his
In one exchange between Weinroth and Ayalon, Ayalon said he
was a “law-abiding citizen” and that “I understand your job. I also had to try
to defend the same accused [Liberman] for four years” – to which Weinroth
replied, “I have no doubt that you are a ‘law-abiding citizen,’ at least in the
Kafkaesque understanding of those words.”
Ayalon was questioned about why
Gal and Roded denied telling Ayalon that they had been told that Liberman wanted
Ben-Aryeh to get the Latvia ambassadorship, with implications that he was lying
out of his anger at Liberman for being tossed out of politics.
said he knew what was said and did not need to explain their answers.
went further in confronting Weinroth’s implications of lying, saying, “How do
you know? I was there.
You weren’t. How can you tell me how I felt? What
am I, a little child? Are you a psychologist?” Danny Ayalon is the state’s star
witness in the case against Liberman. Harel has also supported parts of the
prosecution’s argument, but Ben-Aryeh, Gal and Roded all contradicted the
state’s case, leaving Ayalon to carry most of the burden of proving the
Next in the legal proceedings is the defense’s case, starting with