MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) on Thursday asked State Comptroller Yosef Shapira to examine the background of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s secret trip to Vienna, which was revealed in Haaretz this week. Yacimovich asked Shapira to examine whether taxpayers’ money was used for Lieberman’s private needs and why top Foreign Ministry officials were not informed of the trip.
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Yacimovich wrote the state comptroller that the foreign minister’s trip to Vienna was kept from both the media and senior officials at his ministry. She also noted that during the visit Lieberman met with his associate businessman Martin Schlaff. Yacimovich sent copies of the letter to Lieberman, State Control Committee chairman MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
“Beyond the foreign minister’s dubious meeting with a person who was wanted for questioning [on corruption charges] in Israel, a meeting that does not enhance the reputation of Israeli politics, the secret visit to Vienna and that meeting seem to arouse a profound suspicion of improper use of taxpayers’ money for a private visit,” wrote Yacimovich in her letter. “The concealment of the visit from the media, the keeping of senior ministry officials and relevant diplomats out of the picture and the non-reporting of the minister’s diplomatic meetings, if any, give rise to a strong whiff of improper relations between government and great wealth that are pursued in secret – but at the public’s expense.”
Yacimovich noted the suspicion that Lieberman’s trip testifies to a pattern of funding trips at the taxpayer’s expense. She has also filed a parliamentary question on the matter to the Foreign Ministry asking for as many details as possible about Lieberman’s trip to Vienna.
On Thursday Haaretz reported that during the course of the secret trip Lieberman met with his close friend and ally Milorad Dodik, the Serbian nationalist and separatist who is the president of the Srpska Republika, a semi-autonomous region of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is not clear why Lieberman’s bureau defined the meeting as diplomatically “sensitive” and why it concealed it from Foreign Ministry personnel.
Moreover, senior Austrian Foreign Ministry officials have told Haaretz that over the weekend Lieberman also held a meeting that was defined as “unofficial” with Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz. For reasons that are unclear, Lieberman concealed this meeting too from the media and most top Foreign Ministry officials. Kurz, for his part, also kept the meeting under wraps, did not report it to the Austrian media and only a few of his closest associates knew it had taken place.