State Attorney clears envoy Ayalon

Affair involving Israeli ambassador in US, Shalom and Madonna ends with whimper.

ayalon danny 298  (photo credit: AP [file])
ayalon danny 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
A year-long soap-opera-like saga involving Israel's former Foreign Minister, his wife, the ambassador to Washington, his wife and the sex icon Madonna ended with a whimper Wednesday. State Attorney Eran Shendar recommended Wednesday that no criminal charges be leveled against ambassador Danny Ayalon for alleged wrongdoing, and that the Foreign Ministry suffice with a disciplinary hearing and either a warning or a reprimand for behavior unbecoming. Shendar also determined that, contrary to allegations, there was no evidence that former foreign minister Silvan Shalom and his wife, Judy, intervened to get one of Ayalon's aide, Liran Peterzil, fired because he did not arrange a picture for Judy with Madonna when the singer visited Israel last year. The tangled web began last April when the Civil Service Commission started an investigation following a Yediot Ahronot story that Israeli Embassy workers complained that Ayalon's wife, Ann, had abused them. There were also reports that Ayalon had spent money on trips outside Washington for Peterzil. Following Peterzil's dismissal about a month later, Ayalon charged Shalom had fired him because of the failure to get Shalom's wife photographed with Madonna. He also claimed that he had tapes of phone conversations with Foreign Minister director-general Ron Prosor and deputy director general Nissim Ben-Sheetrit backing this up. The Justice Ministry and the Civil Services Commission issued a joint statement Wednesday saying that Shendar had sent findings of an investigation his office conducted to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. According to the findings, many issues were investigated and in most cases it was decided that there was no evidence to justify disciplinary action, with the exception of two cases: Ayalon's taping of conversations with his superiors; and the fact that during the Civil Service Commission's investigation of the employment conditions for employees at the home of the ambassador, Ayalon met with his workers and discussed the investigation as well as the possibility of a pay raise. Shendar wrote to Livni that a number of issues regarding the role of the spouses of diplomats, and employment conditions at the homes of ambassadors, were revealed during the investigations, and that separate from Ayalon's disciplinary procedures, the Civil Service Commission and the Foreign Ministry should discuss these issues and draw necessary conclusions. The entire saga took place against the background of a history of sour relations between Ayalon and Shalom. Ayalon was appointed some 3 years ago by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, enjoyed his trust and backing, and - according to foreign ministry officials - reported directly to the Prime Minister's Office, keeping Shalom out of a very important loop.