The thrill of victory and the quivering lip of defeat

Reporter's Notebook: Liberman and his entourage rose jubilantly and exchanged hugs and congratulations.

November 7, 2013 01:58
2 minute read.
Liberman arrives at court for verdict, November 6, 2013

Liberman arrives at court for verdict 370. (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10)


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The tiny Jerusalem Magistrate’s Courtroom, where every media outlet in the country was crammed into a few rows of benches, erupted with cheers and gasps on Wednesday within seconds of the court starting to read its verdict in the Avigdor Liberman case.

Unlike in the Ehud Olmert corruption trial verdict – when the court’s decision to acquit on the main charges was unclear for several minutes, leading several reporters initially to report the verdict wrongly as their attention spans gave way – the openly nervous judges on Wednesday revealed Liberman’s acquittal at the outset.

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Liberman and his entourage rose jubilantly and exchanged hugs and congratulations.

Minutes later, when Michal Sabel, lead counsel for the prosecution, made a clearly unprepared statement to the press, her lip quivered and she struggled to regain composure (which she eventually succeeded in doing) while saying that the prosecution thought it had a strong case, but the court disagreed.

It was an emotional end to an emotional trial.

Sabel’s quivering lip and the Justice Ministry’s virtually deafening silence on the possibility of appeal was another incredible contrast to the Olmert verdict.

In the latter, you could see the veins in the necks of the prosecution’s lawyers almost popping out in righteous anger and clearly signaling an intent to appeal that just needed to be technically confirmed.

While Liberman started the trial with his trademark “everything is the Garden of Eden” mantra, one could see the case draining him and causing him more anxiety as time went on.

When he was cross-examined, while not broken, he was also not fully the self-assured political force that he often appears to be in public. At times, he looked nervous and openly unsure of himself.

His greatest show of confidence was when he called his former deputy Danny Ayalon a liar during his and Ayalon’s testimony, shouting out from his bench.

Ayalon, incidentally, appeared confident and calm throughout his testimony and unrattled by Liberman’s attacks.

The prosecution, in contrast, appeared to start the trial with high confidence in its cause, but little by little appeared more unsure as it grappled with Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh turning hostile witness, Liberman’s general implacability, and the fiery interruptions and objections of Liberman’s lawyer Jacob Weinroth, who at one point declared in a raised voice to Sabel that she should “be careful.”

As the trial reached its end, it was hard to say whether Liberman or the prosecutors appeared more confident – but in a matter of seconds on Wednesday, all became clear.

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