Police found information it received from deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon helpful in the renewed investigation concerning former Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman. Channel 2 and Channel 10 reported Monday night that Ayalon’s testimony further complicated Lieberman’s situation, but Ayalon’s office denied this, claiming “he was never questioned at the police.”
- Lieberman Faces More Questioning
- Lieberman Resigned, but Isn’t Leaving
- Indictment Against Lieberman Expected in Days
- Former Deputy FM Ayalon Says Lieberman Should Move to Finance Ministry
- Lieberman Fraud Trial Begins
- Avigdor vs. AG: Heavyweight Match
- Watchdog: Don't Save Portfolio for Lieberman
According to the reports, Ayalon, who was recently removed from Yisrael Beiteinu’s leadership by Lieberman, and headed the Foreign Ministry’s selection committee for diplomats, told police that Lieberman was active in appointing Ze’ev Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia, apart from Lieberman’s concealing the fact that he was briefed by the former Belarus ambassador about the investigation against him.
According to the TV news reports it seems that testimonies of selection committee members appeared to strengthen Ayalon’s version. Both reports mentioned that Ofer Avidan, Israeli consul in Atlanta who also hoped to be appointed ambassador to Latvia, understood very early that he didn’t stand a chance. In his investigation, Lieberman said he did not remember discussing the appointment with Ayalon.
The Justice Ministry then announced on Sunday that it had reopened the case and called in further witnesses for testimony, and that that prosecutors may add more serious charges to the indictment against the former foreign minister and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman.
Lieberman will face further rounds of questioning in the matter over the course of this week.
Lieberman is accused of attempting to promote Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, the former ambassador to Belarus, in order to reward Ben Aryeh for giving him confidential information about the police investigation against him in that country. Lieberman denies having pushed for Ben Aryeh's appointment as ambassador to Latvia after the Belarus incident.
Channel 10 reported on Monday that Ayalon was the head of the Appointments Committee when Ben-Aryeh was made ambassador, and that his testimony had indicated that Lieberman had requested Ben-Aryeh's appointment.
Lieberman earlier this month announced that Ayalon, a member of his Yisrael Beiteinu party, would not be included on the faction slate for Knesset.
According to senior sources in Yisrael Beiteinu, Ayalon was ousted partly due to the fact that Lieberman suspects that the deputy foreign minister is responsible for serial leaks to diplomatic reporters.
Time after time over the last few years, the sources said, Lieberman warned his deputy to keep quiet, but the latter never learned. The problem was so severe that Lieberman even began barring Ayalon from accessing classified Foreign Ministry material, they said. Later, Lieberman also began leaving him out of the loop on party issues.
Following the announcement of his departure from the Knesset list, Ayalon stated on his Facebook page: "I was notified today by party chairman Avigdor Lieberman that I will not be included in Yisrael Beteinu's list for the next Knesset. I had the pleasure of serving as deputy foreign minister of the State of Israel in the last four years, during a complex and challenging period. I will continue to act to help bolster Israel's security, diplomacy and economy, in whatever ways I choose. I am continuing to work diligently, until the end of my term. Tomorrow I will participate in a joint government meeting with the Czech Republic and Germany."
Ayalon is known for leading Israel's hasbara (public relations) efforts and being highly active on Twitter. Last year, as the September date for the first Palestinian appeal for statehood at the United Nations approached, Ayalon starred in a video looking to delegitmize the bid by arguing that the West Bank is not occupied, but disputed territory. In it, Ayalon demands the world stop using the terms "occupied territories" and "1967 borders."