Lieberman's Corruption Trial: The Paper Trail

With former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's trial winding down, here's a review of the most important documents in the case, complete with links to the originals.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

The prosecution has rested its case in the corruption trial of former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and the defense begins to call its witnesses in two weeks.

Lieberman, who is still the chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, is accused of working to have Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, appointed ambassador to Latvia after Ben Aryeh gave Lieberman information about a police investigation regarding Lieberman’s affairs in Belarus.

Below are the most important documents in the case regarding Lieberman, Ben Aryeh and the members of the Foreign Ministry appointments committee. They were presented in Jerusalem District Court and recently posted on the Courts Administration website. Most of the documents are in Hebrew. They appear here in chronological order.

February 22, 2008

This is how it all started – an email sent by the State Prosecutor to the Foreign Ministry requesting that information about Lieberman’s bank accounts in Belarus be provided through Israel's embassy there.

February 27, 2008

This is the official request for legal assistance the State of Israel sent to the authorities in Belarus, through the Israeli embassy in that country, for information about Lieberman.

September 16, 2009

The first information about the ambassadorial-appointment issue came from Ben Aryeh himself. A month before he was appointed ambassador to Latvia, Ben Aryeh was scheduled to undergo a polygraph test administered by the Shin Bet security service.

During the preliminary discussion, he says being asked about giving classified information to an unauthorized person will disturb him. He explains that when he was the ambassador in Minsk, he was asked to transfer information about the investigation of a minister to the Belarussian Justice Ministry. Ben Aryeh admits he told the minister in question about this request.

The polygraph test was not done and Ben Aryeh was sent home. Absurdly, even though the Shin Bet knew Ben Aryeh had passed on classified information, he was appointed ambassador. He went back to talk to the Shin Bet again in November, at which point, he told them everything. But it was only in January that the information reached Attorney General Menahem Mazuz, who instructed the police to open an investigation on his way out of office. In March 2010, Ben Aryeh was suspended from the Foreign Ministry.

October 29, 2009

The protocol of the appointments committee that met to discuss Ben Aryeh’s possible appointment as ambassador to Latvia includes a list of other candidates who were being considered for the appointment.

January 25, 2010

In the transcript of Ben Aryeh’s questioning by police, he explains giving the secret information to Lieberman: “Nowhere in the material that I received was it written that this was secret information and it was forbidden to pass it on … I had it on my chest, I knew it wasn’t right …”

Lieberman’s attorneys have tried to prove during the trial that Ben Aryeh never had a conversation with Lieberman about the issue but merely gave him a written note along with the information and that Ben Aryeh certainly never told Lieberman he knew of the matter from the request the prosecution filed through the embassy in Belarus.

Ben Aryeh affirmed this theory in court, retracting what he had told police during questioning. But he was not declared a hostile witness. Deputy District Court President Hagit Kalmanovith remarked there was no point in dealing with the question of whether there had been a conversation between the two men, since Lieberman also said Ben Aryeh “scribbled something” for him.

With regard to passing on the secret materials, Ben Aryeh said during the interrogation (Page 13, line 371 and onward): “I think there were two reasons I gave Lieberman the content of the requests in connection with his investigation – the main reason is I very much admire Avigdor Lieberman as a diplomatic personality and leader, and I think Lieberman is innocent, even though there are people seeking to incriminate him. Now I understand this doesn’t give me any right to interfere with judicial processes, but at the time it occurred to me that here are the people who want Lieberman’s blood, and I’m not going to let them drink his blood. The second reason is, although I don’t know about the practical side, whether Lieberman in the end helped me or didn’t help me get appointed ambassador to Belarus, with my action I wanted to show my gratitude to him, by helping him.”

February 7, 2010

The transcript of Ben Aryeh’s second interrogation by the police (Page 4, line 110 and on) records him saying, “It was important to me to give the information about his investigation to Lieberman because I believed I was helping him by doing this and because I believed he had supported my appointment as ambassador and that’s why I gave him the material.”

About this, Lieberman, during his questioning, said that after 10 hours of interrogation, Ben Aryeh would have admitted to crucifying Jesus.

March 2, 2010

This is the transcript of Lieberman’s questioning in the interrogation room of the National Fraud Squad, which he describes as an “upgrade” (compared to the interrogation rooms he’d been questioned in previously). He describes Ben Aryeh as “wimpish and intelligent,” and then later as “an idiot, the type liable to mess himself and me up.” He also says, “Did I speak to any of the members of the committee? The appointments committee? I really, really … you know, I’m trying to, you know, remember if I approached anyone, if I spoke with then deputy foreign minister] Danny Ayalon. Did I go in to him? I don’t think I spoke [to him].”

During the next round of questioning, after Ayalon had given testimony, Lieberman definitively answered that he never spoken to him about the issue.

Lieberman is scheduled to testify on May 29.

May 1, 2012

The indictment against Ben Aryeh led to his conviction as part of a plea agreement and his sentencing to four months of community service.

November 29, 2012

In an interview with Geula Even on Channel 1, about a week before he was dropped from the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list, former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon says he does not remember Lieberman asking him to work to get Ben Aryeh appointed ambassador to Latvia.

When questioned by police afterward, Ayalon claimed Lieberman approached him on the matter. He explained the gap in his two accounts by saying he had been angry that Channel 1 had broken an agreement that his interview with Even would deal solely with diplomatic issues.

Testifying in court earlier this month, he said, “You don’t implicate a foreign minister on a live broadcast.”

The defense attorneys see this as clear evidence that Ayalon had gone from sympathetic to hostile, because he had been dropped from the Yisrael Beiteinu list. The court will have to determine whether Ayalon was speaking the truth in court, even if motivated by a sense of revenge.

December 20, 2012

In the transcript of Danny Ayalon’s first round of questioning by police, he says Lieberman asked him to get Ben Aryeh appointed ambassador to Latvia and that two other members of the appointments committee, Shimon Roded and Yossi Gal, told him they had received similar instructions. Gal denied this, while Roded said he does not remember, but that he cannot rule out that Sharon Shalom, Lieberman’s chief of staff, contacted him about the matter.

Prosecutors argue the fact the position of foreign minister is still being reserved for Lieberman is significant: Since he is liable to return to being their superior, Roded and Gal are afraid to speak honestly.

December 25, 2012

During another round of police questioning, Lieberman responds to Ayalon’s claims by saying, “And there are those who say I murdered Arlosoroff,” a Zionist leader murdered in 1933.

In contrast to his previous claim that he did not remember if he spoke to Ayalon about Ben Aryeh, this time Lieberman definitively say he did not.

December 27, 2012

Geula Even denies Ayalon’s claim that there was prior coordination with him regarding the topics to be covered in her interview with him on Channel 1.

December 30, 2012

Ayalon contacts Chief Supt. Yoram Na’man and tells him the email accounts of Yedioth Ahronoth journalists were broken into and that he feared his email would also be breached.

Defense attorneys argue that Ayalon leaked information to journalists that resulted in two negative articles about Lieberman appearing in Yedioth and that he feared that a breach of his email would reveal this. Ayalon denied this claim.

Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Credit: Emil Salman
Avigdor Lieberman, left, and his former deputy, Danny Ayalon.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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