On Tuesday night, former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was questioned for 40 minutes at the offices of the Lahav 433 unit in Lod. The unit was inaugurated back in 2008, as part of the police intelligence unit, to investigate major crimes and corruption. Needless to say, it’s a very busy unit.
But they took time off their busy schedule, on the request of the prosecutor’s office, to ask Mr. Liberman some questions—a most unusual move, considering the fact that the case was already being presented to the court, or a minute or so before the submission.
This is because what was expected to be a walk in the park for Liberman may end up being a walk in the same park, but in prison garb and hauling a garden spade and a wheelbarrow. Why? Possibly because you can’t push around all the people all the time. On occasion, they push back.
A while ago, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was asked by the prosecution whether or not Minister Liberman was involved in promoting the appointment of an ambassador to Belarus (a major no-no – these appointments must be made strictly by an appointments committee staffed by mostly civil servants and chaired by one Danny Ayalon). At the time, Ayalon could not, for the life of him, recall whether or not Liberman was influencing the process, or even if he was present in the room during the committee meetings.
Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes you forget something completely, and then something dramatic happens and, all of a sudden, you remember everything. In Ayalon’s case it had to do with the famous ride he allegedly took with his boss, FM Liberman, to a press conference where Liberman was going to announce the list of top Israel Beiteinu candidates for the Knesset. Allegedly, while in the car together, on the way to the event, Liberman turned to his deputy and informed him that, by the way, he’s not on the list.
There was wide speculation as to why Ayalon was being punished – in the end it was decided he was just too uppity for Liberman’s taste. Why, Ayalon was becoming very popular on his own, what with his facebook page and his You Tube clips, and the incident when he forced the Turkish ambassador to sit in a tiny chair just to humble him a bit. Ayalon was visibly shaken by the snub, but still managed to mumble to the press that he is there only to serve, blah blah blah.
Turns out, shortly thereafter, according to a prosecution leak, Danny Ayalon started remembering stuff. Suddenly—so goes the leak—the appointments committee chair recalled, for instance, that Liberman actually did influence the appointment of our man in Belarus (who is serving time as we speak for alerting Liberman regarding another investigation against him) – in fact, Liberman was in the room during the committee meeting.
So now everything is going to change, because the prosecution smelled blood in the water, and so it told the court to wait a while, there’s new stuff coming, and Liberman found himself yet again before a police interrogator – or a few of them.
Liberman came to his police interrogation directly from the National Hall in Jerusalem, where he and his co-leader on the Likud-Beiteinu list, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, launched their the Knesset elections campaign.
A week ago, Liberman resigned from his post as Foreign Minister, so that he could get over the court case, or the plea agreement, quickly, in time for him to return to active campaigning. Now it’s no longer a sure thing. Not with the strong indications from the prosecution leaks that a new body of evidence is being accumulated against him, as, apparently, a few other committee members have started to recall stuff.
When you’re down and out, folks are no longer so deeply afraid of you. Even when you’re potentially down and out, some brave souls would find the courage to kick you a little further in the wrong direction on the slope.
Now Netanyahu is in a huge bind. First, he’s starting to get ready to absorb the ricochets from a potential Liberman conviction that would disable the latter for a while. First, he’s going to have to adjust to a smaller Knesset faction. From 42 seats in the outgoing 18th Knesset, he’s facing anywhere from 36 down to 32. Life with Liberman the liability will be far less comfortable than life with Liberman the asset.