A few weeks ago I wrote about the mystery surrounding the omission of Deputy FM Danny Ayalon from the Yisrael Beitenu list against the background of the resignation of the Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
At the time there was speculation that Liberman simply didn’t want a successful and popular deputy hanging around at election time and so ousted Ayalon while he still could.
Other theories posted that this was a “preemptive step by Liberman concerning an issue involving Ayalon that has yet to be revealed.”
Today it was revealed that this last possibility appears to be the real reason behind Ayalon’s ouster, after the State amended its indictment against Liberman for having unethically promoted a former ambassador to Belarus, naming Danny Ayalon as a witness in the case:
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday presented an amended indictment against Avigdor Lieberman following new testimonies in the case of former Ambassador Zeev Ben Aryeh’s appointment.
While the charges of fraud and breech of trust remained unchanged, the revised indictment added details on Lieberman’s involvement in Ben Aryeh’s appointment.
It was noted that the resigning foreign minister had instructed his deputy, Daniel Ayalon, to appoint Ben Aryeh as the ambassador to Latvia claiming he was the most qualified for the job. Ayalon will be testifying on behalf of the prosecution.
On Tuesday investigators from Israel Police’s National Fraud Unit questioned Lieberman under caution for 40 minutes during which he was confronted with testimony by his former deputy Danny Ayalon and members of the Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee.
He denied having worked directly to appoint Ben Aryeh, however the indictment suggests differently. It says that Ayalon was not well acquainted with Ben Aryeh and appointed him based on Lieberman’s recommendation.
In a letter delivered to Lieberman’s lawyers, the attorney general said, “After examining the new testimonies which suggest that MK Lieberman had a bigger role in the ambassador’s appointment than noted in the original indictment it was decided to add a number of facts.”
Lieberman said in response, “I repeat I did not break any law and that has not changed. I want this matter to be quickly sorted out in court and that is why I have already informed the Knesset that I withdraw my immunity following my resignation as foreign minister. All rumors about a plea bargain are false. The truth will come out in court.”
The Times of Israel expands on this story:
According to the new version of the indictment sent to Liberman’s defense team, while he served as foreign minister, Liberman explicitly instructed Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to push the Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee to name Ze’ev Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia — despite the fact that Ayalon did not know Ben Aryeh personally.
The charges are expected to be filed on Sunday, Israel Radio reported.
Ben Aryeh, during his previous post as Israel’s ambassador to Belarus, had allegedly given Liberman documents related to a second, far more serious probe into the then-foreign minister’s affairs. That investigation was later dropped for lack of evidence.
On Tuesday, amid reports that Ayalon had supplied damning new details against his former boss, police summoned Liberman for a 40-minute interrogation. On Thursday, it was announced that Ayalon had been added to the list of witnesses for the prosecution.
Although all these salacious details make for excellent political-thriller reading material, I find the whole issue heart-breaking. I was a great admirer of Avigdor Liberman’s outspoken style as Foreign Minister, telling foreign governments exactly how things stand without mincing words, and I do not feel he harmed Israel’s interests at all in this manner. In fact I feel he helped advance Israel’s standing in a region where hard-talking is much more respected than soft-spoken diplomacy.
Danny Ayalon too was an excellent Deputy Foreign Minister and his loss to Israeli politics, assuming he is not reinstated in Yisrael Beitenu or seconded to another party, is a crying shame. His little videos explaining Israel’s story and actions were a brilliant tactic and we need more straight talkers like him.
Corruption is killing Israeli politics. It’s time to reform our whole system.