Olmert, pride could be Liberman's downfall

By refusing to admit any alleged mistakes and saying he would do the same again, Liberman may have given the state a silver bullet to hit him with.

July 9, 2013 19:27
2 minute read.
FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER Avigdor Liberman stands in court, April 30, 2013

Liberman in court 370. (photo credit: Emil Salman/Pool)

When former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman made his first real statements about the Belarusian Ambassador Affair, he took a completely different strategy than public officials such as former prime minister Ehud Olmert did when under the gun.

Olmert’s answers to allegations against him were generally that he did not recall answers to questions on damaging evidence.

Alternatively, even as he would not directly admit or deny some specific allegations, if he made mistakes, he could admit his mistakes while emphasizing that they were ethical, not criminal, and that he would learn lessons from his ethical missteps.

In contrast to Olmert, Liberman – accused of illegally receiving classified information about an investigation against him from former ambassador Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, and of subsequently helping promote Ben-Aryeh – admitted to almost all of the central facts of the indictment against him, and in characteristically self-assured fashion, added that he would have done the same thing a second time.

Why? Because he did not believe that ruining Ben-Aryeh’s livelihood over “one momentary lapse” in a long career dedicated to Israel’s foreign affairs was the right thing to do.

Liberman said this was especially true where Ben-Aryeh’s lapse ultimately hurt no one.

In short, Olmert was willing to admit mistakes, as long as, and especially if, admitting mistakes would get him out of a potential conviction. In the process, he generally avoided confirming specific facts in the state’s case. But at the same time, he left himself an out in claiming that he failed unintentionally.

By refusing to admit any alleged mistakes and saying he would do the same again, Liberman may have given the state a silver bullet with which to hit him.

Over and over, in closing arguments, the state emphasized as unimpeachable proof of Liberman’s alleged criminal intent and gross conflict of interest that he had implemented his own moral values in place of bringing Ben-Aryeh’s illegal revelation to the attention of the police.

The state said Liberman’s imposition of his own moral values on the issue was worse, because he had a clear conflict of interest due to having benefited from the information, and that his later helping promote Ben-Aryeh showed his contempt for the authorities’ right to decide these issues.

In addition, for the first time, the cases were directly linked. The state got to use the Jerusalem District Court’s conviction of Olmert against Liberman, as Olmert’s conviction included failure to report incidents in which he had a conflict of interest.

Between the decision itself and Liberman’s refusal to admit alleged errors as Olmert did, his pride and the Olmert decision could bring him down in an otherwise seemingly borderline case.

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