Embattled Yisrael Beytenu party head MK Avigdor Liberman, who resigned earlier this week as foreign minister, reiterated on Thursday evening that he believes that he did nothing wrong, that he has no desire for a plea bargain, and that the media have already determined his guilt based upon repeated lies and prejudice against him.
Interviewed on Channel 2 news, Liberman told justice reporter Guy Peleg that the country’s journalists “lie on live television, and then try to turn it into the truth.” Liberman emphasized that, contrary to repeated media reports, he has not received “millions” of dollars from associates, his daughter did not receive exorbitant consultation fees from a friend of his, and his attorney did not seek a plea bargain with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
“I admit that I have not read the indictment, and I don’t intend to,” said Liberman.
Liberman said that “the biggest crime is to succeed,” and he emphasized that “I am proud of the fact that I arrived (in Israel) without connections, that I have good friends around the world, and that I have succeeded.”
“We did not come to discuss a plea bargain,” Liberman said when asked about reports to that effect. “We came in order to clarify… 34 days before the elections, where the matters stand.”
Liberman added, with a half-smile, that he was surprised that the media hadn’t “accused me of dragging out” the proceedings. Last week, Weinstein announced that he would indict Liberman on charges of breach of trust and fraud, and Liberman promptly announced his resignation as foreign minister. the resignation took effect on Tuesday — but the expected filing of the indictment this week was delayed. Liberman had said he hoped to have the case resolved before the January 22 elections, but the state prosecution has begun interviewing new witnesses related to the case this week.
The impending charges stem from an in incident in which Liberman allegedly received classified Justice Ministry documents from the former ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben Aryeh. The documents were related to a separate investigation against Liberman on fraud and money laundering charges. That case, involving major allegations of bribery and money laundering, was closed last week for lack of evidence. Liberman then allegedly sought to reward Ben Aryeh with an appointment to a second ambassadorship — an appointment that did not ultimately occur.
Hours after Weinstein announced the pending indictment, Liberman held a press conference in which he said that Ben Aryeh tried to give him information, not because Liberman had asked him to do so but because Ben Aryeh had chosen to do so.
The ambassador handed Liberman an envelope in his hotel room, unrequested, while Liberman was on an official visit to Minsk. When he saw what the envelope contained, he told Ben Aryeh to “stop this rubbish,” tore up the paper, “threw it into the toilet and flushed it away.”
Liberman denied subsequently rewarding Ben Aryeh in any way, noting that the ambassador was “head and shoulders” above other candidates for a subsequent job as ambassador to Latvia — an appointment that did not ultimately go ahead — and that it would have been wrong to punish Ben Aryeh over the envelope incident by seeking to block such an appointment.
In the interview on Thursday, Liberman said that he still does not understand what was wrong in his actions, and were he to be placed in the same position again, he would act exactly as he did the first time.
When asked why he did not punish Ben Aryeh for what was obviously an illegal act, Liberman responded that “I will not punish a man…who is respected by all, for a weakness, for one blunder.”
According to Liberman, dozens of “Israel’s finest lawyers and jurists” have clearly said that if in fact there was any wrongdoing on his part, “it was certainly not a crime, but a disciplinary infraction.”
Nevertheless, the former foreign minister said bitterly that “the fact that I have a beard, and that I am a settler with a thick Russian accent, constitutes absolute proof” that he is a repeat offender.
Liberman attacked what he claimed was the media’s continually determining his guilt. “The judicial system is responsible for enforcing the law, not morality,” said Liberman. “If the public decides, then in the end you never get to the actual facts.”