Former Belarus envoy put on leave

Ben-Aryeh allegedly passed secret investigation materials to Lieberman.

March 3, 2010 18:37
2 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

lieberman threatening 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Israel's former ambassador to Belarus was put on unpaid leave on Wednesday afternoon in the wake of police accusations that he had passed secret investigation materials pertaining to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on to the foreign minister in 2008.

Ze'ev Ben-Aryeh, who has been serving as the foreign minister’s diplomatic adviser and was designated to be the next ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania, was sent on leave pending Civil Service Commission suspension proceedings. The move was agreed upon by the Foreign Ministry and the Civil Service Commission following a report of criminal misconduct received by the commission from the police.

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Police say the envoy, who was supposed to pass the confidential dossier directly to Belarus authorities in order to request their cooperation on the matter, copied the documents and gave them to Lieberman while the latter was visiting the country. Lieberman’s involvement in Ben Aryeh’s promotion in the foreign service will also come under investigation.

On Wednesday evening, Ben-Aryeh denied that he had opened the confidential dossier with intent to pry.

Speaking to Channel 1, the former envoy stated in his defense that the envelope containing the document had not been sealed when it was given to him. As an Israeli diplomat, he said, he thought he had the security clearance to look through the material sent to him by the government before passing it on to security forces in Belarus.

"The envelope contained a letter addressed to me, and I couldn't pass it on without reading it," he said.

Ben-Aryeh did not acknowledge whether or not he had passed the information on to Lieberman, but hinted that the matter had been blown out of proportions. "I am under investigation and cannot discuss this issue," he told the news channel.

Earlier today, citing the "mother and father of all investigation disruptions," Avigdor Lieberman filed a temporary injunction to the High Court of Justice to force the attorney general, the state attorney and the Police Investigations Division to explain why an internal investigation of leaks in his criminal case had been closed.

On Tuesday, Lieberman was questioned by police on suspicion of having received an illegal tip-off from Ben Aryeh in 2008, allowing him to subvert the investigation process under way at that time.

In August 2009, police said enough evidence existed to charge Lieberman for taking bribes, fraudulently receiving goods, violating public office, obstructing justice, harassing witnesses and laundering millions of shekels using a host of shell companies and bank accounts.

In response to questions outside the High Court today, Lieberman told reporters that he had no intention of stepping down, and expected to serve as foreign minister through the 2012 elections and beyond that.

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