The Israeli Cabinet approved on Sunday the return of Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister after his acquittal on corruption charges.
An Israeli government official, who asked not to be identified, said the Cabinet endorsed Lieberman’s appointment at its weekly meeting but that final approval was needed from the Knesset, which will probably be forthcoming on Monday.
Lieberman served as foreign minister from March 2009 to December 2012, five weeks before the election for the current government. He left office after an indictment was filed against him. Last week he was exonerated.
Netanyahu has been holding the Foreign Ministry position open for Lieberman, taking on the foreign affairs portfolio himself rather than appointing another foreign minister before the trial ended.
Meanwhile, Danny Ayalon, former deputy foreign minister and star witness for the prosecution against his former boss, told Israeli media that the truth about the Lieberman case did not come out in court.
According to Ayalon, witnesses from the Foreign Ministry had been intimidated and were afraid for their lives. For that reason, Ayalon, said, he “can understand why those two witnesses ‘forgot’ to give greater detail during the trial.”
“I understand that the two witnesses in question knew that two previous witnesses had disappeared,” he alleged.
The judges, who declared Lieberman innocent by unanimous decision, said they rejected Ayalon’s testimony against Lieberman “as inconsistent about different topics at the heart of the issue on trial” and said it “was not supported by the testimony of two witnesses, Gal and Rodez.”
The judges also noted that Ayalon’s sudden removal from the Yisrael Beiteinu electoral list on the eve of elections may have motivated him to testify against Lieberman. They also found it suspicious that Ayalon had initially defended Lieberman, but later turned against him.
“People have asked me why I went back and changed the details of my testimony. There was no contradiction; I just remembered more details now,” Ayalon explained.
“Ambassador Ben-Aryeh changed his testimony four times, and suddenly that’s all okay?” Ayalon continued, firing back at critics. “Is it any wonder that witnesses who are threatened by Lieberman’s return will suddenly contradict their previous testimonies?”
Asked about his personal relationship with Lieberman, who ousted him from the Yisrael Beiteinu list days before the Knesset elections, Ayalon also said Friday, “The relationship with Lieberman ended at his initiative. I do not hold a grudge and never hold a grudge.”
Also on Sunday, it was announced that the Likud Central Committee will decide in December whether or not to remain on a joint list with Yisrael Beiteinu or not.
Last week, a Yisrael Beiteinu source close to Lieberman hinted that the two parties will go their separate ways. “It served its purpose,” he explained, “to make sure we have a government led by the right,” he told The Jerusalem Post.