The World Series of Yisrael Beiteinu

Watch the great derby of Yisrael Beiteinu in court: Ayalon, the former deputy whose charms ran out vs. Lieberman, the former minister who stumbled, according to the indictment.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Amir Oren
Amir Oren

MK Avigdor Lieberman tripped himself up when he appointed Ze'ev Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia. As an intended ambassador, Ben Aryeh took a polygraph and that revealed the secret. The dispute over Lieberman's version and that of former deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is over the extent of Lieberman's support for the appointment - whether Lieberman merely made his peace with it or worked to make it happen.

This morning, at 9:30, is the World Series of Yisrael Beiteinu, the great derby: Danny Ayalon against Avigdor Lieberman. The former deputy minister whose charms ran out, versus the minister who stumbled, according to the indictment. D-Day. Danny Day.

In recent months, since it appeared that Ayalon was going to cooperate with the police and the court in his version - which is that Lieberman tried to influence him to appoint Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia - new friends showed up who volunteered to help him. They reminded him that his future was still ahead of him and that he'd better consider his words and their power. They did not offer this counsel, perish the thought, as Lieberman's emissaries; they did so only out of true concern for Ayalon's livelihood and reputation.

Not everything is petty. There is also a little room for schadenfreude. In the duel between Lieberman and Ayalon, some people are responding like Israel during the Iran-Iraq war, rooting for both sides to strike more blows. The forces are not equal. Lieberman has many battalions. Everyone is afraid of him and he stands humble before one man only on the face of the earth - Michael Cherney. Ayalon has friends and professional connections abroad, but the camp that has linked its fate with his consists mainly of his energetic and sharp-witted chief of staff, Klarina Shpitz.

And yet, the advantage is to Ayalon, not Lieberman, who with his own two hands created the Ben Aryeh affair.

The telltale polygraph

That is a fact that has been kept tucked away in the reportage of the unfolding of the affair.What happened between Lieberman and Ben Aryeh in Minsk, while Ben Aryeh was the ambassador in Belarus and Lieberman was an MK-guest, would have remained their private secret if not for Ben Aryeh's appointment to Riga. In the next act, the two meet in the Foreign Ministry. Lieberman is a minister, Ben Aryeh a lowly desk jockey. Lieberman makes Ben Aryeh a member of the inner circle of his bureau. That is more prestigious, but still does not relieve the distress of a diplomat between embassies. It does not lift the depressing Jerusalem mood of a person whose monthly salary, which will determine his upcoming pension, is much higher when he's far from the homeland. Ben Aryeh, by his own confession and testimony, told Lieberman he wanted to go abroad again, a few months after he returned from Minsk. The ambassadorial post that was about to become vacant: Riga. The approval of the appointment led to Ben Aryeh's being sent for a polygraph; that was what led to the discovery of the alleged offense in Minsk - the disclosure of details of a secret investigation to the suspect Lieberman.

Because there is no evidence that Lieberman acted to obstruct the investigation against him following the information he received from Ben Aryeh, he was not suspected of an offense following the encounter in Minsk. Rather, the offense attributed to Lieberman is his involvement, minor or major, in Ben Aryeh's next appointment.

The polygraph extricated from Ben Aryeh a confession of the incident in Minsk. The Shin Bet could then not decide what to do with the results. The disclosure of the investigation abroad was ostensibly (and in actual fact, after Ben Aryeh's conviction based on his confession ) a criminal offense. That offense reflected on the criminal case underway - the major case against Lieberman.

But it was not a security offense of the type the polygraph is given for. To then-Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin's credit, is should be said that he decided to hand the material over to the head of the Investigations and Intelligence Division in the police, Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich. That is an important precedent, which should be emulated in the taking of testimony from bodyguards about those they are guarding who are suspected of criminal acts. The Minsk story was not at the forefront, and apparently could not have been a major consideration for the members of the appointment committee when they met to discuss Ben Aryeh's appointment to Riga. It was their vote that sent him to the polygraph. The argument against them is that Ben Aryeh's appointment was so irregular that they should have disqualified him on merit. They would not have approved it unless they understood that he was Lieberman's preference.

On paper that might be so, but in the Foreign Ministry, the candidate of the senior echelon almost always wins. Out of eight members of the committee, four represent the establishment: from bottom to top, the head of human resources, the deputy director-general, the director-general and the chairman of the committee, Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon. In the extreme case of a tie, the chairman's vote counts for two, and decides the matter.

The Lieberman difference

Thus, the moment that Ayalon, director-general Yossi Gal, human resources chief Shimon Roded and another senior representative supported Ben Aryeh, the game is over and there is no point in going against it.

The essential difference between Lieberman and all the others is that he should not only have doubted the propriety of the appointment, but should have known that is was completely wrong. The others' experience should have led them to doubt that Ben Aryeh was the proper appointment because of his functioning in Minsk and the too-brief time that had passed since his return. Lieberman, as the only one who knew that Ben Aryeh had committed a criminal act in Minsk - knew (according to the prosecution ) that his appointment was really wrong, and did not lift a finger to stop it, either in the ministry and thereafter in the cabinet.

The State Prosecutor's Office, in its weakness over the past year in the Lieberman cases (and those of Ehud Olmert ) is not showing a fighting spirit in managing its part of the court case.

Therefore a great deal is riding on Ayalon's shoulders this morning and on the pitting of his version against that of defense witness Lieberman next week. As in the appointments committee, the question and answer for the three judges will be whether Ayalon's vote will count double, and that will be the decider.

Avigdor Lieberman, right, sits next to Danny Ayalon.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

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