Channel 1 anchorwoman Geula Even blasted former deputy foreign minister Danny
Ayalon’s version of an interview he gave regarding the Belarusan Ambassador
Affair, during the second day of the defense hearing in the trial of former
foreign minister Avigdor Liberman.
Even, who identified herself as “Geula
Even Sa’ar,” after recently marrying Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, told the
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in testimony Wednesday, that neither she nor her
producer Yishai Cherniak had agreed before the interview to refrain from
questioning Ayalon about criminal allegations against Liberman, contradicting
Ayalon’s version of events.
Liberman is accused of fraud and breach of
public trust in the case, referred to as the Belarusan Ambassador Affair, but
has denied all of the charges.
Responding to Wednesday’s testimony,
Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post that the defense was wasting its time on “trivial
issues,” and ignoring that the case is not about whether Ayalon or Even violated
the law, but whether Liberman did.
Ayalon also challenged Liberman on the
central issue of who between the two of them is telling the truth in the trial,
stating “I am ready to take a polygraph, yet Liberman’s lawyers have still not
asked me to. Why isn’t Liberman ready to take a polygraph?” The mutually
contradictory version of events are important because, in the interview given
shortly before Liberman dropped Ayalon from Yisrael Beytenu, Ayalon basically
exonerated Liberman from any wrongdoing.
Yet in court in May, Ayalon was
the prosecution’s star witness, testifying that Liberman was intimately involved
behindthe- scenes in getting Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh appointed ambassador to
The two central allegations against Liberman in the case are that
he failed to report Ben-Aryeh, who illegally showed him classified material in
an investigation against him, and that subsequently he actively promoted
Ben-Aryeh to the Latvia position as “payment.”
In the Channel 1
interview, Ayalon said that he did not recall Liberman instructing him to
appoint Ben-Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia and implied that this was not the way
the Foreign Ministry operated.
Instead, he told Even, people should
review the Foreign Ministry appointment committee protocols, which would show
unanimous support for Ben-Aryeh and no irregularities.
testimony against Liberman last month, the interview he gave on Channel 1 in
which he said Liberman had nothing to do with Ben-Aryeh’s appointment was played
Confronted with his statements in the interview, Ayalon said
that he could not possibly “incriminate the sitting foreign minister of Israel”
in a public interview, with all of the consequences that would have, including
for the state.
Ayalon clarified that essentially, while still a
high-ranking government officer, he felt obligated to cover for Liberman, while
making it clear that in court and before police he was “in a legal forum” and
was “obligated to tell the truth.”
Accused of testifying against Liberman
in retaliation for the Yisrael Beytenu chairman throwing him out of his job and
the party, the former deputy minister said his firing had no impact on his
testimony against his former boss.
He also added that he had a prior
agreement with Channel 1 not to ask about the Liberman case.
that not only was there no such agreement, but that she would never make such an
agreement for an interview.
Even went so far as to say that “even if
[Syrian President] Bashar Assad” asked for an interview with conditions of
questions not being asked on certain topics, she would say no.
backed Even’s version of events, which was important as Ayalon said that the
agreement was actually reached with the producer.
cross-examination, Cherniak admitted to the prosecution that he “did not
specifically remember” the conversation with Ayalon or his
Cherniak then tried to qualify this statement by adding
that if such a request had been made, he would have rejected it as a matter of
Questioned by the Post about the contradictions between his
version of events versus Even and Cherniak’s, Ayalon distinguished between each
person involved. He noted that the actual agreement was between his spokeswoman
Ofra Eliyahu – now spokeswoman to President Shimon Peres – and
In that vain, he said he would “give Even the benefit of the
doubt,” and added that while it was possible that Eliyahu and Cherniak had a
misunderstanding, that Eliyahu “stood by her version of events” and even had
attacked Channel 1 on Facebook back in December over how the interview was
Ayalon added that he had confronted Eliyahu to explain why he
was asked questions about the Liberman case, and that she apologized, but said
Channel 1 had broken an agreement.
The prosecution submitted an affidavit
from Eliyahu on the issue to the court on Wednesday.
Ayalon also returned
to his central point that what was said in the interview was unimportant as it
was not connected to the central legal allegations against Liberman.
Cherniak was pressed by the prosecution about not being truthful, and that media
interviewers regularly agreed to strings-attached for certain interviews, he
said that he could only testify about the rules that he lived by, not
According to the two Channel 1 employees, a few weeks after the
interview with Ayalon, Eliyahu called and confronted Cherniak about the
agreement in question.
Cherniak claimed he believed the spokesman was
trying to record the conversation.
Earlier Wednesday, deputy
director-general of the Foreign Ministry Pini Avivi also testified in Liberman’s
defense, stating that Ben-Aryeh was uniquely qualified for the job of ambassador
to Latvia because of his knowledge of Russian language and
Avivi, promoted to his current position by Liberman and
considered close to the Yisrael Beytenu leader, deflected criticism of Ben-Aryeh
as Belarusan ambassador.
Whereas former head inspector of the Foreign
Ministry Viktor Harel had accused Ben- Aryeh of allowing his local employees in
Belarus to fall into poverty, rendering him unfit for being ambassador to
Latvia, Avivi said that this issue “is not the job of an
Pressed whether he was testifying under influence or fear of
Liberman, Avivi said that he retires in February 2014 no matter what, so that
he, objectively, does not need to fear anyone.
He added that the
possibility of Liberman returning to be foreign minister was not having any
impact on current ministry officials who were testifying in the case.