FM defends suspension of senior diplomat in DC for leak
Lieberman says Dan Arbel "definitely harmed state security."
By HERB KEINON
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has defended the decision to suspend the deputy ambassador to Washington over an alleged leak of information, saying it was a “serious blow to state security,” and not an issue of the public’s “right to know.”Dan Arbel, a veteran and respected diplomat, was suspended last week based on allegations of leaking information to a journalist in 2009. His suspension has angered many in the Foreign Ministry, with some claiming Lieberman has instituted a regime of fear in the ministry, with diplomats afraid to speak to reporters.Lieberman said in an Israel Radio interview that what was at issue was not “just some leak, just some information, or the public’s right to know.”“What is at issue here is something that definitely harmed state security,” he said. “Let’s not be naïve and present this as if he was on the phone, and a journalist was on the other end, and he [just] confirmed or didn’t confirm something.”Rather, Lieberman said, “I am saying that what is being discussed here is something that caused serious damage to state security, and which afterward took a great deal of effort, blood, sweat and tears to repair.”Lieberman said the investigation was initiated by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).The foreign minister said there was a civil service law that stipulated that government workers could only speak to the press with permission.He said that in the foreign ministry, as well as in other government bodies, there were spokespeople mandated with talking to the media, and that there were others working in sensitive positions who “have no right to speak without permission from their superiors.”In December 2009, Lieberman announced the suspension of Alon Bar, then the ministry’s deputy directorgeneral for strategic affairs, for allegedly leaking classified information.Ten months later, Bar was appointed as envoy to Spain, after a disciplinary process – carried out by the Civil Service Commission and including the Shin Bet – exonerated him. The investigation continued, however, and apparently led to Arbel.Lieberman said Arbel confessed to the leak during the investigation and accepted responsibility.Arbel was quoted Thursday as telling friends he made a mistake without any “malicious intent,” and that he took responsibility for it. He added, however, that he was being done a grave injustice and did not deserve – after 25 years of service in the ministry – the public punishment that was now being meted out to him.The ministry’s worker’s committee came out with a statement earlier this week in support of Arbel, praising his more than two decades of service and saying that in Washington he successfully carried out one of most important and senior positions in the ministry.
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