Last updated: 2 May, 2013

Israel’s ex-foreign minister accused by former deputy

A key witness in the corruption trial of Israel’s former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his accusations against the former nightclub bouncer at a court hearing on Thursday.

Ex-deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon said his former boss pushed him to give an ambassadorial posting to Zeev Ben Aryeh, who had been accused of giving Lieberman confidential information about a police investigation into his affairs in 2008.

At a first hearing on February 17, Lieberman pleaded not guilty to the charges in a trial which will decide his political future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who currently holds the foreign portfolio himself, is reportedly seeking to reinstate his ally once the legal proceedings finish.

Ayalon told the Jerusalem court on Thursday that Lieberman had asked him in 2009 to nominate Ben Aryeh, “the best candidate for the Latvia post,” Israeli public radio said.

Ayalon headed the ministry’s appointments committee at the time.

Ben Aryeh appeared in court last week, but went back on earlier statements to police in which he admitted asking for Lieberman’s help in securing the Latvia post.

“I don’t recall that I asked for help from Mr Lieberman,” he said.

According to the indictment, Lieberman was allegedly tipped off by Ben Aryeh, who was ambassador to Belarus at the time, that police had contacted their counterparts in Minsk for help with an inquiry into his affairs.

He is suspected of then seeking to reward Ben Aryeh with the Latvia job.

An outspoken hardliner who has been investigated by police several times since 1996, Lieberman denies the charges, saying he is eager to vindicate himself in court.

Ayalon was unceremoniously ousted from the electoral list of Lieberman’s hardline Yisrael Beitenu party ahead of this year’s January election in a move which was never explained.

When it became clear in December that Lieberman was to face trial, he immediately resigned from his cabinet post, although he retains his status as an MP.

He has expressed confidence that he will be cleared on all charges and return to the foreign ministry.

Lieberman’s main concern will be to avoid a conviction including both a finding of “moral turpitude” and a prison sentence, which would bar him from serving as a minister for seven years.