Knesset Member Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) asked State Comptroller Yosef Shapira to expand his probe into Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's trips to Vienna, saying she obtained new information shedding light on another trip the minister made to the Austrian capital which points to possible improper conduct.
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In a letter sent to the comptroller on Monday, Yacimovich said she has gained information that Lieberman was in Vienna on the weekend of March 28-29 for the bar mitzvah of the son of his close associate, the businessman Martin Schlaff.
According to Yacimovich, two Foreign Ministry events were slated for that weekend – a conference of Israeli ambassadors in Europe and a conference of Jewish leaders.
"These two events were, as far as I know, the results of an initiative by the foreign minister's office, which pushed for holding them on those dates – even though alternatives were suggested, some of them better," Yacimovich wrote.
In her letter, Yachimovich noted that a week before the bar mitzvah and the scheduled conferences, Foreign Ministry employees stepped up their sanctions, announcing a general strike in all of Israel's foreign missions in protest of their employment conditions. As a result, Yacimovich wrote, the ambassador conference was canceled and the Jewish leaders conference's fate was uncertain.
"Despite the circumstances and even though the reasonable course of action was to postpone the conferences Minister Lieberman insisted, according to the information I obtained, on holding the Jewish leaders conference and even approached an outside company to organize it on said date in Vienna – where his associate's Bar Mitzvah was held that same weekend, as was noted before," Yacimovich added.
Yacimovich also wrote the comptroller that she has been told Lieberman makes many trips to Vienna, and on several instances, of which she has no details, he made efforts to change the diplomatic timetable to allow him to meet with his friend Schlaff.
"This information is being brought to your knowledge so that the details of the case can be made complete, and to bring attention to the possible phenomenon that Israel's diplomatic and political agenda is being set to comply with the foreign minister's personal affairs," Yacimovich said.
Recently, Haaretz revealed that Lieberman made a secret trip to Vienna several weeks ago, staying there over a weekend. During the visit, kept secret from the media, Lieberman met with his associate Schlaff and held official meetings with his Austrian counterpart and with the president of Republika Srpska, among others. All the meetings were hidden from the media.
Due to the Haaretz report and after a request by MK Yacimovich, State Comptroller Shapira decided to open an examination and asked Lieberman to present him with all the information pertaining to his Vienna trip. Minister Lieberman claimed in interviews that he asked the state comptroller of his own volition to open an examination to show there was no misconduct and that his trip followed due procedures. Lieberman said in an Army Radio interview on Sunday that his meetings in Vienna dealt with "crucial matters" and were therefore kept secret.
Lieberman's office said in response: "The conference of Jewish organizations, which was held in Vienna on March with the participation of about 50 representatives of organizations from across Europe, was one of the successful and beneficial events held by the Foreign Ministry in cooperation with Europe's Jewish organizations, as a result of which other events were held, including another event in Jerusalem with these organizations and leaders, turning into part of the agenda of the Foreign Ministry.
"Shelly Yacimovich, whose main occupation in public life is to slander and sling mud at others as even her own party members realized and thus deposed her as party chairwoman, merits no response.
"To address the facts, Minister Lieberman himself asked the state comptroller to examine the issue, knowing that everything was done properly and in accordance with the law."