Liberman in court 370.
(photo credit: Emil Salman/Pool)
Two things happened on Tuesday in the Belarusian Ambassador Affair trial against
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman. The state’s case started to fade and
our envoys to France and Thailand were forced to fly to Israel to testify for no
Ambassador to France Yossi Gal and Ambassador to Thailand
Shimon Roded were flown in to Israel supposedly to support the state’s case that
Liberman actively promoted Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh to the position of ambassador to
Latvia as “payment” for Ben-Aryeh showing the former foreign minister classified
material in 2008 in a money-laundering case against him. They did nothing of the
A quick recap on where the case stands: On Day 1, last Thursday,
former envoy to Belarus Ben-Aryeh, for whom the affair is named, sought to
torpedo the state’s case against Liberman, accepting full responsibility for
illegally showing the former foreign minister the classified material.
every turn, Ben-Aryeh contradicted statements he had made to police suggesting
explicitly or implicitly that Liberman knew full well the significance of what
Ben- Aryeh had showed him, and covered it up anyway.
that he and Liberman did not exchange any words about the material, that
Liberman could barely see it in the dark room where he received it and threw it
out without giving it much thought.
Tuesday was the state’s chance to
bring highly respected Foreign Ministry officials to build on the narrative that
Liberman had actively promoted Ben-Aryeh to other key officials to get him
appointed ambassador to Latvia as subsequent “payment” for illegally showing him
the material against him.
However, Gal and Roded both said that there was
nothing unusual about Ben- Aryeh’s appointment and that Ben-Aryeh was fully
qualified for the job. Gal, who had vaguely told police that there were some
cases in which Liberman had sent unofficial messages or hints about who he
wanted appointed, disassociated himself from such comments and clarified that
there were no messages in the case of Ben-Aryeh, and that officials felt free to
reject the then-foreign minister’s professional opinions.
In any case,
Gal said he thought a foreign minister had every right to express his opinion
about his employees in key positions.
Roded undermined the testimony of
the state’s only useful witness to date, Victor Harel, a former Foreign Ministry
head inspector, saying that Harel’s objections to Ben- Aryeh’s appointments were
based on an improperly formatted letter that Harel wrote and the general
unsubstantiated and unreliable rumor-mill of the ministry’s dining
Gal and Roded also preemptively undermined the testimony of former
deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, who now appears to be the main source of
the state’s narrative of Liberman’s active support for Ben-Aryeh, despite the
assumption that Gal and Roded were flown in specially to Israel to support that
Maybe someone was asleep at the wheel when these witnesses
were picked? It is an incontrovertible rule of law that one only calls witnesses
who substantially support one’s case.
If these witnesses had not been
called, the state would have had Harel supporting its narrative and Ayalon
Now it has two highly esteemed Foreign Ministry officials
negating or mitigating Harel’s and Ayalon’s impact.
The state brought in
two top officials, yet all they were able to do was to create a doubt in the
court’s mind about whom to believe. In all, Gal’s and Roded’s time was wasted,
and the state’s case suffered further unnecessary and self-inflicted
Unless Ayalon overpowers the rest of the witnesses with the
persuasiveness of his testimony, the state’s case against Liberman will
encounter serious difficulties.