Liberman: I don't plan to read indictment

Former foreign minister attacks A-G for indicting him without cause; FM Deputy Ayalon takes over Foreign Ministry.

Liberman Yisrael Beytenu press con 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Liberman Yisrael Beytenu press con 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman said on Thursday he does not regret any actions that might have led to his indictment on charges of fraud and breach of trust in the Belarus ambassador affair, and he believes he did nothing wrong.
In an interview with Channel 2, Liberman admitted that he had not read the decision of Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and said he did not intend to read it.
But he accused the State Attorney’s Office of bias.
"I still do not understand what I did wrong,” Liberman said. “Maybe it’s because I am a new immigrant or a settler or I have a beard or a strong Russian accent, maybe they think that’s absolute proof that I am a recurrent criminal. The top legal experts in they country say that if a law was broken it is not criminal, it is merely disciplinary.”
Liberman defended Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, whom he appointed as ambassador to Latvia, despite his breaking the law by providing him with information about the investigation against him in Belarus when he was ambassador there.
“I don’t punish a normative man, who is a scholar respected by all, for what he did at a moment of weakness,” Liberman said.
“As I said when I was questioned, in hindsight if I would have such a situation again, I would behave exactly the same way.”
Liberman stressed that he did not intend to reach a plea bargain, because he wanted to defend himself in court.
Weinstein on decided on Wednesday night not to formally issue the indictment against Liberman until more witnesses testified and Liberman underwent further questioning. The additional testimony, which began on Thursday, could take time, because members of the selection committee who approved the controversial appointment of Ben-Aryeh have since taken diplomatic posts overseas.
Legal officials said it had become very unlikely that even an expedited trial could be completed by the time the next cabinet was expected to form, in February or March. Liberman is unlikely to be appointed a minister until the trial is over.
By law, Danny Ayalon’s term as deputy foreign minister ended on Tuesday morning when Liberman’s resignation took effect and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu became acting foreign minister.
But Ayalon’s reappointment passed in a telephone call of cabinet ministers and took effect when it was announced in the Knesset on Thursday afternoon.
“I accepted the request of the prime minister and will continue to serve in the foreign service in order to uphold Israel’s vital interests,” Ayalon told the Knesset.
Ayalon’s associates said he had never stopped working during the two days for which he had officially lost his title. They expressed confidence that he could improve the country’s foreign relations now that Liberman was out of the way.
“Things will be different under Netanyahu than they were under Liberman,” an Ayalon associate said.
“Netanyahu will let him lead the ministry. He will be acting minister. Danny will be the ultimate professional, especially now that he is free of any political obligations.”
Netanyahu and Ayalon will meet over the weekend to coordinate their foreign policy strategy on key issues, sources close to Ayalon said on Thursday.
Those issues include improving ties with the Obama administration and handling international condemnation of construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
Ayalon has yet to be questioned in the Belarus Ambassador Affair. Sources close to Ayalon stressed that Liberman’s decision not to include him on Yisrael Beytenu’s list of candidates in the January 22 election would not affect how he testified.