The Lieberman method
The speed at which the police moves will determine whether, and how many, more cases might be opened against former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
For his birthday on December 17, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon got a lovely present: He was forced to resign by the boss who nurtured him, used him and dumped him. But Ayalon didn't turn the other cheek to Avigdor Lieberman. He graciously acquiesced to Maj. Gen. Menachem Yitzhaki and Brig. Gen. Yoram Ne'eman's request to meet with him in his Hod Hasharon home 10 days ago.
The debriefing nailed down Lieberman's alleged involvement in pressuring the Foreign Ministry's appointments committee to name Ze'ev Ben Aryeh ambassador to Latvia. Ayalon also agreed to attend a police-sponsored confrontation with Lieberman, who chose to avoid the encounter.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials have lots of stories about Lieberman and his cronies if the police brass are interested - and by law, any policeman who hears about a possible crime is obligated to investigate. Yitzhaki, commander of the elite Lahav 433 investigation unit, is undergoing training in the run-up to his expected appointment next summer as head of the Investigation and Intelligence Branch after Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovitch retires.
He would be in a good position in Lieberman's case; he doesn't have to search for witnesses, they're waiting for him, and not just with traces or leads, but with huge piles of evidence that if pursued properly could probably reopen the larger case against Lieberman - for alleged fraud, money laundering and witness tampering. That case was closed earlier this month by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. It seems like a stretch, but we must remember that the indictment against Lieberman in the Ben Aryeh case was amended when the investigation was extended beyond the last minute.
The home - Yisrael Beiteinu means "Israel our home" - that Lieberman built for his own purposes is being shaken by the storm and is threatening to collapse on him. From a small family home, based on mutual cover-ups and pleasures, it became a multistory building with many tenants, full of disputes and vengefulness.
When a party has five ministers in the cabinet and Knesset representation that lets it fund organizations that can benefit its politicians, the atmosphere becomes clouded with information and passions. One could make a confused ancient Greek analogy concerning the Achilles' heel of Pandora's box.
Lieberman mocked the legal establishment as long as he ran a tight ship with only one or two captains - the indictment doesn't rule out brilliant initiatives worthy of a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates - and a devoted, tight-lipped associate, Sharon Shalom, who changed jobs like Peter Sellers in "Dr. Strangelove" but who always did Lieberman's bidding. (Shalom served as political aid, election consultant, company CEO and foreign minister's chief of staff.)
Shalom was suspected of complicity in money laundering, among other things. When the attorney general closed the case that dealt with the alleged front companies, one assumes that the case against Shalom was also closed, though there was no official announcement to that effect. This must have been a great relief to Shalom, who is to Lieberman what Shula Zaken was to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The Lieberman method was based on reward, punishment and arbitrariness as a deterrent. The leader who promoted you could also get rid of you with no explanation. The party demanded absolute loyalty, which was monitored closely. Officials who were granted the rank of minister or deputy minister also received diktats on filling certain positions in their offices.
There was also a financial side to this: the alleged expectation that workers (mainly female) who couldn't make do with their basic, meager government salaries would sign off on all kinds of declarations and expense accounts. Refusal to sign would bring the paperwork to Lieberman's close circle, exposing the worker to complicity to fraud - this was the weak spot in the method. It pushed its victims into all-out war, including "verifying the kill," either politically or legally, lest the wounded recover and seek vengeance.
But the conspiracy of silence among public servants who received their wages, directly or indirectly, from this can of worms has unraveled. The question is how quickly and effectively the police will move; this will determine whether, and how many, more cases might be opened against Lieberman.