The trial of MK Avigdor Liberman (Likud-Beytenu), the former foreign minister will open at 2 pm today at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court. He is accused of fraud and breach of trust related to the appointment of Zeev Ben-Arie as Israel's ambassador to Latvia.
The accusation against Liberman is that, while serving as foreign minister, he sought to promote the appointment of Zeev Ben-Arie as ambassador to Latvia, even though Ben-Arie, in his previous post as ambassador to Belarus, leaked to Liberman details of an investigation document sent to the Belaus authorities as part of an Israel Police investigation into Liberman in the front companies affair. The front companies case, the main case against Liberman, was closed for lack of evidence.
An important witness for the prosecution is former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon. According to the prosecution, Liberman summoned Ayalon to his office just before the appointments committee met to discuss Ben-Arie's nomination as ambassador to Latvia. Liberman allegedly told Ayalon that Ben-Arie should be appointed to the post, saying that he was the most suitable candidate for the job. Ayalon is due to testify about this.
If Liberman is convicted of the charges, and if the court decides that the conviction carries the stigma of moral turpitude, he cannot serve as foreign minister. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly designated Liberman for the post in the next government.
The trial will see a direct clash between the version of Liberman, who claims that he applied no pressure of any kind in favor of Ben-Arie, and the version of Ayalon, who says that Liberman instructed him to get the nomination approved. Liberman is also accused of not bringing to the attention of the appointment committee's members, including Ayalon, the disclosure by Ben-Arie of the confidential information in the investigation document sent to the Belaus authorities. "As the result of Liberman's omission, the appointments committee lacked critical information that Ben-Arie had failed in his duty by disclosing the details of the request, and that he sought to disrupt it, in serious breach of the trust placed in him."
Ben-Arie was put on trial for informing Liberman about the front companies investigation. He was convicted as part of a plea bargain for disclosing information to an unauthorized person and obstruction of justice, and sentenced to four months of community service.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 17, 2013
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