Lieberman Fires Back at Claims of Financial Ties With Azerbaijan

Yisrael Beiteinu leader denies claim that it has receives money from Azerbaijan in return from promoting its interests in Israel, preventing recognition of Armenian genocide.

Zehava Galon and Avigdor Lieberman.
Ofer Vaknin and Olivier Fitoussi

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, a former foreign minister, launched a vulgar attack on Thursday against Meretz leader Zehava Galon, who accused his party of receiving financial support from Azerbaijani government officials in return for advancing Baku’s political and financial interests in Israel.

'She's in serious need of a psychiatrist," Lieberman said in an interview on Army Radio. "None of the facts she babbled about have any connection with reality,"

While denying the veracity of Galon's accusation, Lieberman focused his attack on the Knesset Member herself.

"Her entire raison de'etre is as an agent for foreign organizations that damage the Israel Defense Forces and its soldiers and slander Israel," he said. "All Meretz are foreign agents whose prime objective is to harm IDF soldiers and slander the good name of Israel."

Asked about the timing of Galon's revelation, Lieberman said that "there are all sorts of ticks in the political system, all of them are failures. If they don't slander Lieberman, no one will interview them."

Responding to Lieberman on Thursday, Galon said, "there's no doubt he's under pressure. Apparently what I said hit a nerve."

Also interviewed by Army Radio, Galon repeated the claim she made the previous day in the Knesset. According to her, Azeri money funded AZIZ, the non-political organization founded by Yisrael Beiteinu to promote the interests of Azerbaijan.

In return, she said, Yisrael Beiteinu worked, among other things, to promote the activities of the oil and gas company that belongs to the Azeri government, as well as to prevent official Israeli recognition of the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I, because of Azerbaijan’s territorial feud with Armenia.

During a fraught plenum session on Wednesday, in which the Yisrael Beiteinu version of the so-called NGO law passed its first reading, Galon announced that she had filed a complaint on the Azerbaijan issue with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, along with evidence of her claims.

“You are the foreign agents of the Azeris,” she said. “You are getting benefits from them 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,” she said.

"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.”