If Netanyahu Named Attorney General per Lieberman's Demand It's Bribery, Ex-prosecutor Says

PM's son claims appointment was Lieberman's key demand in 2009 coalition talks ■ Avia Alef, who accompanied corruption probe against ex-defense minister, suspects 'fraud' and 'conflict of interests'

Netanyahu with Avigdor Lieberman
Emil Salman

A former senior Israeli prosecutor responded Thursday to claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caved in 2009 to former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's demand to appoint an attorney general who would exonerate him of criminal charges. 

Avia Alef, who accompanied a sprawling corruption probe against Lieberman, said that if the accusations are true these actions would constitute as bribery.  

Alef responded to a tweet by Netanyahu's son, Yair, who wrote that Lieberman's key demand during negotiations to form a government at the time was that Yehuda Weinstein be named attorney general. 

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Weinstein ordered to close the case against Lieberman, who was suspected of receiving funds from private, foreign businessmen worth millions of dollars, and funneling them into shell companies he owned while serving as a Knesset member and minister.

"If it is true that the attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, who ordered to close the case, was appointed per Lieberman's demand, then there is alleged fraud, breach of trust and a conflict of interests, with things even amounting to bribery between Netanyahu and Lieberman – which led people in the Israeli judicial system to serve foreign interests, by extricating Lieberman from indictment," Alef told TheMarker.

"The problem is not a potential perp, but the loopholes in the system which allow felons to get away with their crimes," said Alef, who wrote a book about the case, which she said focused on the poor decision-making process in the legal system surrounding the probe.

"If it turns out Yair Netanyahu's claims are true, that means that the attorney general also allegedly acted in a conflict of interests," Alef said, noting that the case was never brought before any Israeli court. "This as opposed to the 'small case' which Lieberman touts as being exonerated in. It means the system acted in the service of officials and their interests, and not in the name of the public's interest."

Yair Netanyahu made the claim earlier this week in response to Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken, who tweeted an article charging that the prime minister appointed Weinstein in order to draw out and close cases against Lieberman.

"I'll give you a scoop. This was [Lieberman's] most important coalition demand in 2009," the tweet said. Yair later added that his father "Had no choice" in the matter.

Lieberman had declared that he sold his interests in the shell companies when he returned from a political hiatus in 2006, but prosecutors found that he continued to receive large sums of money. He was also accused of trying to promote Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, Israel's ambassador to Belarus, after he handed Lieberman confidential information about a judicial inquiry by the police into the latter's activities in Belarus.

He was charged with money laundering, fraud and breach of trust. In December 2013, after an investigation spanning 12 years, then-Attorney General Weinstein acquitted Lieberman of money laundering, instead indicting him on lesser charges of fraud and breach of trust, the latter pertaining to the Belarus case. Weinstein closed the case, citing insufficient evidence. Then-State Prosecutor Moshe Lador believed that Lieberman should have been indicted, but acknowledged the legal complexities and difficulties of bringing in overseas witnesses and evidence.

After Yair Netanyahu's tweet, Weinstein told Haaretz that "it is below me to respond to such things, but this is nonsense." He added: “I don’t know the prime minister’s son, but I have the impression that he has seen better days."

Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party responded harshly. “Since 1999 and until today, we have never raised any request in coalition negotiations concerning the choice of an attorney general. The latest claim is a new zenith in lies and paranoia from the school of the Prime Minister’s Office and those close to him. We recommend Likud headquarters urgently bring onboard a well-known psychiatrist with proven experience."

A spokesman for the Netanyahu family responded to the claims as well, saying that in 2009, “Yair was a high school student who was not involved at all in political matters. The response to Amos Shocken is based on things that were said in the public dialogue in 2015."

Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg requested that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit open an investigation into Lieberman and Netanyahu based on Yair's online testimony.