Ayalon: I never testified against Liberman

Deputy foreign minister denies reports by Channel 2, 10 claiming he gave police testimony against his former boss.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR 150 (photo credit: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at UNHCR 150
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Foreign Minister's Office)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon unequivocally denied reports broadcast Monday night by both Channel 2 and Channel 10 which claimed he had given police testimony against his former boss, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman.
The allegations concern the indictment against the former foreign minister in the so-called Belarus Ambassador Affair, with more serious accusations that could lead to new charges of active, rather than passive, fraud.
Ayalon’s reported statements would also contradict Liberman’s version, in which he took no active role in the affair.
A short time after the programs were aired, Ayalon denied in a written statement that he was even questioned by police, and Liberman maintained his innocence on all charges.
What gives these reports a soap-opera feel is that earlier this month Liberman, in a complete surprise, left Ayalon off his party’s list of candidates for the next Knesset as part of the merged Likud- Beytenu list. According to the Channel 2 report, the Yisrael Beytenu party leader is expected to try to defend himself by saying Ayalon was taking revenge.
Liberman is also expected, according to Channel 2, to point to an earlier interview by Ayalon in which he supposedly said he did not remember the events surrounding the allegations against Liberman.
The prosecution and the police both refused to confirm or deny whether Ayalon was recently questioned.
According to the broadcasts, the deputy foreign minister was questioned only recently about the affair, which until then had only involved allegations that former ambassador Ze’ev Ben- Aryeh leaked investigative material to Liberman, after which Liberman passively withheld information on this from a Foreign Ministry committee that was considering Ben-Aryeh for a new posting in Latvia.
The new allegations against Liberman, which started to surface last week, are that he did not just passively withhold information, but actively interfered in the appointment process on Ben-Aryeh’s behalf.
The reports also said that 10 candidates originally had sought the Latvia position, but most dropped out when promised other promotions – possibly by Liberman through other Foreign Ministry officials speaking on his behalf.
Other media reports have alleged that Liberman concealed negative reports about Ben-Aryeh from the appointments committee. Yediot Aharonot quoted sources who said that “the influence of Liberman” was pervasive throughout the process.
Liberman maintains that Ben-Aryeh was an able diplomat who was well-suited for the job.
The new allegations, which the reports said stem primarily from Ayalon – who was head of the appointments committee and was involved in the proceedings – would move the charges from the realm of passive fraud to active fraud, with potentially more serious applicable punishments and political consequences.
The Channel 10 report added that several other witnesses from the appointments committee confirmed and reinforced Ayalon’s statements regarding Liberman’s alleged conduct.
Channel 2 reported that Liberman would be requestioned this coming weekend regarding the new allegations.
Also on Monday, the State Comptroller’s Office formally confirmed that it had received requests to investigate Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s handling of the Liberman case.
Liberman and many other politicians have questioned Weinstein’s decision to delay an indictment so he could investigate the new charges after the attorney-general announced he would file the indictment last week, and after Liberman had already resigned as foreign minister.
A spokeswoman for the YAHBAL serious and international crimes unit, which investigated the Liberman case, on Monday refused to explain why the case was reopened – when just last week she had said the unit considered the matter closed.
She added that the case was, from the unit’s point of view, complete, and as it had been handed over to the prosecutor, it was his office that was responsible for providing answers about the recent developments.
Media reports indicated that there may have been disagreements between the prosecution and the police about reopening the case for more questioning, but it is Weinstein who ultimately will make the final decision.
On Sunday, the state explained its decision to reopen the case for further questioning based on a Channel 10 news report from last week indicating that the fraud allegations against Liberman could be amended to include active fraud instead of mere passive fraud.
One ministry source said that while it was not unusual for foreign ministers to indicate their preferences for ministerial posts, what made this case different was the allegation that Liberman received something from Ben-Aryeh beforehand. Furthermore, the source said, Ben-Aryeh did not distinguish himself as a diplomat worthy of such a posting after having just recently returned from Belarus.
Generally, diplomats spend two years back in Israel before being appointed to another position abroad. Ben-Aryeh was in Israel for less than a year after returning from Belarus before being appointed envoy to Latvia.