From the trials of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and ex-president Moshe
Katsav and from Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s past pronouncements,
the expectation for Sunday’s trial was a thunderous and forceful denial of all
charges by Liberman.
The charges were denied in their entirety. But
Liberman did not say a word during the proceedings, although he did briefly make
a few wisecracks at the media’s expense when entering the room before the
proceeding started. The denial, though, was left to his lead attorneys Yaa’cov
Weinrot and Giora Aderet.
They quickly said he understood the charges and
denied them, just as attorneys do for minors who are too bashful to speak for
Not that defendants always make their own denial, but it is
not rare and with someone like Liberman, it is a surprise that he stayed seated
Although Sunday’s trial was all business for Liberman, there
was hope of post-hearing press conference but this was not to be the
The closest there was to a press conference was when the despairing
hordes of cameramen literally encircled and blocked Aderet four times from
trying to leave, until he offered that they “hoped for a fast trial,” and then
finally succeeded in escaping.
Liberman briefly had a smile when entering
the court room, but for the most part was uncharacteristically understated and
Part of it might have been that the courtroom was
The press is always jampacked in for these
events and there is barely ever any room for anyone, including the former
foreign minister, to move their arms or breath, but this might have been the
smallest courtroom in history for such a massively important
Because Liberman’s alleged crimes, compared to others, are
relatively minor, his case takes place in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, a
smaller building and the most minor of the courts. Olmert’s two cases, in
contrast, have been held in district courts.
What does this mean on the
ground? No more than 12 benches and about fifty people at a maximum fit into the
Liberman court room, compared to two or three times that many benches and people
in the Olmert cases.
This reporter was two feet from Liberman, whereas
Olmert always had some space.
But Liberman also just looked uncomfortable
with the format.
Unlike Olmert, he is not a lawyer and, until now, has
managed to stay out of court.
Even the loudest individuals can get
quieter in a newer context.
Some of it might have just been that he wants
this all to move as fast as possible, which his lawyers projected several times,
telling the prosecution after it made certain statements to cover formalities
that the statements were unnecessary.
The lawyers themselves seemed a bit
perturbed, possibly by the fact that the trial is only starting now and will
only hear witnesses in April, when originally they had hoped to wrap the case up
possibly before elections.
But this was only the opening day. Presumably,
Liberman will take the stand and his powerful personality will come out stronger
then, as he tees off with his former deputy Danny Ayalon.
personality” is a new one for Liberman and it remains to be seen what image he
will project overall during this case: Sunday’s passive bystander or the
aggressive powerhouse the nation is used to.