Officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday, over the fact that he is planning to reserve the position of Foreign Minister for Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman until the end of his trial.
These officials told Channel 10 News that there is “a great sense of discomfort” in the Foreign Ministry because some of its employees are slated to be witnesses in Lieberman’s trial. This makes it difficult for them since they know that Lieberman will ultimately be their superior once again.
The officials also criticized the fact that Lieberman has indicated that he intends to appoint one of his associates as the Director General of the Foreign Ministry once he is re-appointed to the position.
"These things are terrifying the people who are witnesses and who may be summoned to testify,” they told Channel 10. "It makes it very difficult and uncomfortable for us,” they added.
Lieberman is suspected of fraud and breach of trust after having suggested in December 2009 that the government name Ambassador Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, the former ambassador to Belarus, to a post in another country. This was done despite the fact that -- according to the evidence presented -- Lieberman knew that the ambassador had done wrong in passing along secret information, including details of a police inquiry against Lieberman.
The trial officially began on Sunday, and the former Foreign Minister informed the court that he was denying the charges, and would plead not guilty.
Testimony given by Lieberman’s former Deputy Minister, Danny Ayalon, has indicated that Lieberman was not only aware of the expected appointment but also worked and pushed for the appointment to be approved at the Appointments Committee of the Foreign Ministry.
Lieberman’s attorneys asked for a speedy trial, in order to avoid long-term political damage. In response, the court said that they would hear the case in eight sessions over the month of April and May, beginning immediately after Pesach. The first hearing is set to take place April 25.
Lieberman has hinted that if he is convicted of corruption charges, he will not stay in politics, but added that he is confident that he will beat the charges brought against him.
Despite the criticism by the officials, noted Channel 10, it is doubtful whether the fact that the portfolio is being saved Lieberman will affect the trial, since the police already have enough evidence that was previously collected.
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) has called on Netanyahu to publicly state that he will not save the position of Foreign Minister for Lieberman, so that employees of the Foreign Ministry will be able to testify during Lieberman’s trial without fear of being dismissed if Lieberman returns to the position.