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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.