The next spokesman of the Israel Defense Forces was involved in helping the police gather evidence in a major corruption case involving the Yisrael Beiteinu party.
In late 2014, shortly before the 2015 general election, police arrested several senior people in Yisrael Beiteinu on suspicion of taking bribes.
One of them — Amnon Liberman, a media advisor to two of the party’s cabinet ministers — later turned state’s evidence. He told investigators that he and another ministerial advisor had accepted cash from media consultant Ronen Moshe in exchange for helping a company that Moshe was involved to win contracts from the tourism and agriculture ministries.
Police gave Liberman a recording device and sent him to record key people in the case. During this time, Gil Messing hosted Liberman at his home, accompanied him to police facilities and even went with him on his secret recording missions. This week, Messing was named as the IDF’s next spokesman.
Liberman had met Messing, then a senior executive at the Strauss food company, a few months earlier. Their relationship wasn’t particularly close, but Messing nevertheless chose to help him in his time of need.
Messing was close to Moshe, the PR consultant suspected of bribing Liberman and others. Yet on January 14, 2015, two weeks after the investigation became public knowledge, Messing met with Moshe at a Tel Aviv café.
Moshe had no idea that Messing was recording their conversation, and that this would result in his being indicted. A transcript of their conversation, obtained by Haaretz, shows that the two also spoke the day before, though that conversation wasn’t recorded.
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“I didn’t sleep all night,” Messing told Moshe at the café. “I didn’t want to pressure you, so I left.” “I’m afraid of obstruction,” Moshe responded.
Messing, who was not a suspect in the case himself, presented himself as someone seeking to help his friend in his time of need. But he was actually helping the police obtain incriminating evidence, at their request.
Messing told Moshe that he had spoken with Amnon Liberman “and he told me everything — about the money he received” and also about Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. Moshe then asked if Liberman had told the police.
“He denied everything, but, and this is an important but, he’s sure that Stas or Rami has turned state’s evidence,” Messing replied, referring to former Agriculture Ministry Director General Rami Cohen. “Because everything they accused him of was very accurate.” “That has nothing to do with me,” Moshe replied.
At that point, apparently to pressure Moshe into making an incriminating statement, Messing proposed that Moshe and Liberman concoct a story that would spare them criminal charges — namely, that the money Moshe gave Liberman was a loan. “He says they know everything,” Messing said. “I thought about this all night and I think you should say it was a loan.”
Moshe: “If they ask him why he didn’t return the money?”
Messing: “It’s a tax offense.”
Moshe: “That’s the best it could be.”
Messing: “It’s not a lot of money.”
Moshe: “That’s also really the story. ... Listen, I was dragged into something here. They’re killing me, simply killing me.”
Messing then tried to get Moshe to confess to giving bribes to other senior officials, saying that Liberman even tried to kill himself in order to protect the others, but was convinced the police knew everything. He added that Liberman was worried about how the loan story would mesh with the stories told by other suspects.
“I only gave money to Amnon,” Moshe replied.
“He told me about some meeting that took place in his house ... with Tali,” Messing said, referring to Tali Keidar, chief of staff to then-Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir. “I don’t know if there was money there or you just talked about money.”
Moshe: “Tali was also questioned?”
Messing: “I don’t know.”
Later, Messing said that he had risked getting himself in trouble by having this conversation, “but if the situation were reversed, I expect you’d do this for me. ... Now we need to see what we’re doing with this ... because if Stas talks ... or Rami.”
“I’m not connected to them,” Moshe replied.
Messing then began asking about the money Moshe gave Liberman and Keidar and whether they had pressed him to give it. Apparently fearing that Moshe was speaking too softly for the recording device, he also urged him to speak up.
“They told me we’re all in bad shape,” Moshe said in response to his questions. “Amnon said help us, help us."
Messing asked where the money came from, and Moshe replied, “I withdrew it from my bank ... cash which I gave them because they pressured me. I’m not earning anything from this.”
“So why do it?” Messing asked.
“That’s hindsight wisdom,” Moshe replied. “[Liberman] was in miserable shape.”
Messing: “That’s why the loan story is a good story.”
Moshe: “True. ... See if he denied everything.”
Messing said Liberman did tell him he had denied everything to the police and had even fainted during one interrogation session. Despite having no connection with the case himself, Messing also said he feared he would be summoned for interrogation as well, in an effort to make Moshe think they were both in the same boat.
Messing reiterated that he thought Misezhnikov had talked and turned state’s evidence, apparently to spur Moshe to confess to bribing the minister, but to no avail. “I’ve got nothing to do with Stas,” Moshe said.
“Only with that trash at the Agriculture Ministry.”
Messing then encouraged Moshe to meet with Liberman and obstruct the investigation, even offering the use of his home for the meeting. “I don’t want to,” Moshe replied, saying that to be caught coordinating stories with Liberman “would be the worst.”
Later, Messing revealed that he hadn’t “abandoned” Liberman, and in fact, Liberman was currently living with him. “But what drove them so crazy ... what’s with this chasing after money?” Moshe asked in response to this news.
Moshe: “I fled from them for two months. ... I didn’t answer the phones.”
Messing: “Perhaps Rami pressured them.”
Moshe: “In the end I gave him a loan and that’s what I’ll tell them. Not at first.”
Messing: “I want to tell him that if things go there, it’s a loan. He’s already embroiled me. I’m part of the obstruction.”
Moshe: “I’m living in a nightmare. I’ve been in a nightmare for a year. Because I’m not that kind of person.”
Messing urged him to protect himself rather than any of the other people being investigated. Rami Cohen “is already in it up to his neck; embroil him a little more,” he urged. “It’s the truth.”
But Moshe insisted, “I’m not connected to him. I never met with him.”
Messing: “But you handed over money that ...”
Moshe: “I imagine Amnon handed it over. ... I don’t know where the truth lies there.”
At one point, Moshe said he feared that Liberman had turned state’s evidence.
“I don’t know what he did and didn’t do,” Messing replied. “I didn’t ask him directly, ‘Did you turn state’s evidence.’”
Toward the end, Moshe voiced his gratitude to Messing. “I’ll never forget this as long as I live,” he said.
Twelve days later, the police arrested Moshe. The evidence against him included the recording of his conversation with Messing and pictures of their meeting at the café. About 18 months ago, he and Keidar were charged with bribery. Their case has not yet gone to trial.
Haaretz asked both Messing and the Justice Ministry about Messing’s role in the investigation, but as of press time, neither had responded.
Moshe’s attorney, Ravit Tzemach, declined to comment, saying she would not cooperate with the media on this issue.