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