Liberman case: Wasted ambassador's flights

The state's case against Liberman started to fade and Israel's ambassadors to France and Thailand were forced to fly to Israel to testify for no good reason.

By
May 1, 2013 14:18
3 minute read.
FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER Avigdor Liberman stands in court, April 30, 2013

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 good reason.

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 kind.

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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.

At 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.

Ben-Aryeh testified 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 hall.

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 narrative.

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 on-deck.

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 blows.

Unless Ayalon overpowers the rest of the witnesses with the persuasiveness of his testimony, the state’s case against Liberman will encounter serious difficulties.


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