The testimony of two top Foreign Ministry officials on Tuesday stood in stark
contrast to the state’s allegations in the Belarusian Ambassador Affair case
against former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman.
He is charged with
fraud and breach of public trust, but has denied the charges.
the current ambassador to France and a former Foreign Ministry director-general,
testified that there was nothing exceptional in appointing Ze’ev Ben- Aryeh as
the ambassador to Latvia and that Ben-Aryeh was “selected for his experience and
In contrast to Gal’s testimony, the state’s narrative is
that Liberman actively advocated for Ben-Aryeh’s appointment as “payment” for
Ben-Aryeh’s having illegally revealed to him classified information about
another case against Liberman.
Although the state hoped Gal would
strengthen his statements to police regarding Liberman’s active involvement, he
did the opposite.
Gal denied that Liberman had any
While in his police statements, he went as far as to say
that Liberman had sometimes sent unofficial “messages” or hints regarding which
candidates he wanted to get which jobs, in court he specifically denied that
this had happened in Ben-Aryeh’s case.
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He even qualified his earlier
statements to police as possibly having been misinterpreted, saying that “it is
perfectly legitimate for any foreign minister to express his professional
opinions” about any appointment, and that while officials took such opinions
“under consideration, sometimes officials did not follow the foreign minister’s
Whereas former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon
specifically told police that he and Gal had received messages or hints from
Liberman to appoint Ben-Aryeh, Gal contradicted Ayalon’s police statements by
denying the receiving of any directives.
Asked if Ayalon might remember
what happened better than him, Gal answered that he was unmoved, would stick
with his answer and was in no position to address Ayalon’s memory of what
Gal added that when he supported Ben-Aryeh’s appointment, he
“did not know anything or half of anything” about any connection between
Ben-Aryeh and Liberman.
On cross-examination, asked if anyone “expressed
opposition” to appointing Ben-Aryeh when he was chosen as ambassador to Latvia
by the appointments panel, Gal said he “had no memory of any
Gal also confirmed that he told another top Foreign Ministry
official, Yoav Sogolovich, that there was nothing unusual about the process to
The testimony of Shimon Roded, the current ambassador
to Thailand and formerly the head of human resource for the Foreign Ministry
also did no favors for the state’s case against Liberman.
Roded said that
while he could not 100 percent deny that Liberman’s chief of staff had discussed
Ben-Aryeh’s appointment with him, he could not recall that he did.
dismissed as unworthy “rumors” the allegedly “well-known” criticism of Ben- Aryeh
as unfit for future ambassadorial appointments that former Foreign Ministry head
inspector Victor Harel presented as the “word on the street” in the Foreign
Ministry about Ben-Aryeh.
He said that he recognized and thought it was
prudent to disregard such unsubstantiated and “unfounded rumors.” Regarding a
negative review of Ben-Aryeh submitted by Harel, Roded and Gal both undermined
Gal said that he did not remember ever seeing such a
document and noted that it was not submitted to him, but to his predecessor in
the post of director-general.
Roded said that he recognized the document,
but chose not to submit it to the appointments committee as it “did not mention
Ben- Aryeh by name,” “was not an official document” and “Ben- Aryeh was not
showed the document to give him a chance to respond.”
With that in mind,
Roded said that the document had virtually no significance and that if he had
submitted such a “non-standard” document to the committee, “I might be brought
to court today to stand trial” for trying to improperly influence the
Both witnesses also made light of allegations that Ben- Aryeh
was appointed to be the ambassador to Latvia against standards that generally
require a longer period in Israel between foreign positions and a longer amount
of time until retirement.
While both witnesses admitted that Ben-Aryeh
spent less time than usual in Israel between appointments and had less time than
usual left until retirement, they said such appointments were not unheard of,
even if they were not the rule.
Roded also dismissed what was presented
as statements made by Ayalon to police that Roded had told a candidate to
withdraw who was competing for the same post as Ben- Aryeh, since, allegedly,
Liberman had decided he wanted Ben-Aryeh to get the post.
He admitted to
speaking to the candidate, but said that he did not give him any order to
withdraw, only friendly advice and mostly due to other unspecified factors
making the candidate less worthy for the position.
The trial continues on
Thursday with the longawaited testimony of Ayalon against Liberman.
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