Meretz chairman MK Zehava Galon charged Wednesday that Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party is getting financial support from Azerbaijan government officials in return for advancing Baku’s political and financial interests in Israel.
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According to Galon, Yisrael Beiteinu is supporting the interests of the Azeri national fuel company and has been actively working to prevent Israel from officially recognizing the Turkish genocide of Armenians during World War I, because of Azerbaijan’s territorial feud with Armenia.
Galon said that she has filed a complaint on the matter to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, along with evidence of her claims. Party chairman Lieberman vehemently denied Galon’s allegations, saying “not a word of what Galon said is true.”
Galon made her allegations in the Knesset Wednesday while condemning Yisrael Beiteinu’s support of the so-called “transparency bill,” which primarily targets left-wing NGOs that get funding from foreign governments. Galon charged that Lieberman’s own party benefited from Azeri government money.
“You are the foreign agents of the Azeris,” she said. “You are getting benefits from them; you have set up organizations through which you get money from them. You set up the organization called AZIZ, you are part of the management of AZIZ.
“Knesset colleagues, the AZIZ organization, the Israel-Azerbaijan International Association, serves as a financial and organization platform for Yisrael Beiteinu, and is funded by Azeri government officials. You are party of AZIZ’s management in a revolving door fashion; whoever isn’t an MK or a minister is part of AZIZ’s management.
“Avigdor Lieberman, when he was foreign minister, attended a conference funded by the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, the same company that a year before Lieberman helped get involved in oil and gas drilling off the Israeli coast. This company got a five percent share, and it’s funded by a foundation headed by the president of Azerbaijan,” said Galon.
She added that former Yisrael Beiteinu MK Faina Kirschenbaum “named a street in Israel after the father of Azerbaijan’s great dictator.” The Meretz leader also accused Lieberman and his party of “working to prevent the recognition of the Armenian genocide because you are envoys of the Azerbaijan government and because of [the Armenian takeover of] Nagorno-Karabakh [a region previously under the sovereignty of Azerbaijan]. You are getting millions from Azeri sources through the fund you’ve set up and you dare to speak of and demand transparency from civic society groups. You are a corrupt gang and now you are seeking to work against civic society organizations.”
Lieberman categorically denied Galon’s claims, saying, “In this case, as usual, there is not a word of truth in what Zehava Galon is saying. MK Galon, who was questioned for hours by the police [in 2001 on suspicion of financial irregularities in a peace center she ran] and whose case was closed for lack of evidence, has turned lies and libel into a way of life. Even Meretz doesn’t deserve such a shallow and deceitful leader like Zehava Galon. In any case, every lie by Zehava Galon against me and Yisrael Beiteinu is a big compliment.”