Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander and Foreign Ministry Director Yossi Gal agreed on Wednesday that Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, now ambassador designate to Latvia and Lithuania and until recently Israel’s envoy to Belarus, will take a forced vacation as the investigation into his actions related to the police investigation of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman continues. Ties between Ben Aryeh and Avigdor Lieberman came under scrutiny this week as Lieberman fought to avert impending corruption charges. Ben Aryeh, until recently an anonymous junior diplomat, is suspected of leaking to Lieberman secret details of a police investigation that may soon result in a criminal indictment against the controversial minister. How Ben Aryeh, who immigrated to Israel in his thirties and is said to have only a faltering command of Hebrew, emerged from obscurity to lead key diplomatic missions to the former Soviet Union has been the subject of intense speculation among foreign ministry officials. Many diplomats were shocked when eventually Ben Aryeh, now in his 60s and like Lieberman a former Israel Radio employee, was appointed ambassador. Many suggest that without Lieberman’s patronage, he would never have advanced beyond routine desk work in Jerusalem. Less than 12 months after his previous promotion, he saw off competition from several senior and more experienced candidates for the post of ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania. Diplomats contacted by Haaretz were unanimous in their anger over the affair: “Never in the history of the Israeli diplomatic service have we seen this kind of outrage,” one said. “These are dark days for the foreign ministry.
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