By Barak Ravid and Maya Zinshtein, Haaretz Correspondents
A serious dispute has broken out between Foreign Ministry staff and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the wake of a series of articles published on IzRus, an Israeli, Russian-language Internet site.
A number of ministry deputy directors general asked Director General Yossi Gal to come out publicly in support of his staff.
Several very negative reports about the ministry appeared on IzRus, considered one of Israel's five leading Russian-language Web sites, in the past few days. But the diplomats' anger reached its peak Wednesday morning, after the publication of an uncredited article, with the headline: "Orgies, bribery and fights in the Foreign Ministry: The Liebermans would not be accepted there."
The editor of the site is Michael Falkov, who was Lieberman's media advisor betwee 2003 and 2004.
The story claimed the ministry and its overseas missions are fertile ground for "orgies, sex with minors, sexual harassment and bribery." The author even claimed that most of the cases are still being hidden from the public. In addition, the writer accused the ministry of discriminating against immigrants, and Russian-speakers in particular, in appointments and admittance to the diplomat training course. The article also states, however, that Lieberman's appointment as foreign minister has changed the situation, increasing optimism among Israeli diplomats with a Russian background. "Native-born Israelis, especially at the highest levels, were scared their property had passed into foreign hands," the unknown author wrote.
After senior officials demanded that Gal reply to the vilification, the director-general's office told Haaretz Wednesday: "We are disgusted by the claims in the report on the IzRus Internet site and deny them completely. Foreign Ministry employees are a dedicated and professional group that operates around the world day and night to advance the affairs of Israel."
Senior ministry officials told Haaretz Wednesday that there is a sense of their being a "manipulative campaign of incitement," as one put it, against Israeli diplomats here and abroad, especially those serving in the former Soviet Union. In addition, they said they suspect Lieberman and his aides of standing behind the the venomous reports. One claimed that IzRus is identified with Lieberman.
"It is his mouthpiece," he said. "Lieberman is behaving like a bully with the Foreign Ministry employees. At worst he wrote the article himself, and in the best case he was the inspiration for it," the official said.
According to a few of the high-ranking Foreign Ministry officials, the reason for the attack was the severe criticism of Lieberman's attempt to appoint his friend and confidante Shaul Kamisa as ambassador to Egypt.
A few days ago Haaretz exposed an internal ministry document claiming Kamisa's appointment would cause serious diplomatic damage to Israeli interests.
Lieberman was furious over the report and said he would demand that State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss investigate the leak from within the Foreign Ministry.
Lieberman's bureau has denied any connection to the stories on the IzRus site.
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