- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

JERUSALEM — Israel’s attorney general has been dragged into a spat involving the wives of the foreign minister and Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon — and pop star Madonna in a bit role, newspapers reported yesterday.

The dispute gave delighted readers a welcome break from the weightier affairs that usually confront them on the nation’s front pages.

The reports said Mr. Ayalon, a well-regarded figure in Washington, had asked Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to examine whether Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and his wife, Judy Nir Moses-Shalom, were behind an attempt to force the dismissal of Mr. Ayalon’s personal assistant, Liran Petrezil.

The ambassador reportedly said the request was initiated by Mrs. Moses-Shalom, who was miffed by Mr. Petrezil’s failure to arrange a meeting for her with Madonna when the singer visited Israel last year for Kabbala studies. Mr. Petrezil had handled the visit.

Mr. Ayalon was quoted saying the request for Mr. Petrezil’s dismissal amounted to improper interference with the embassy’s work. But a Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday dismissed the complaint as ?absurd? and said Mr. Petrezil’s position was being eliminated as part of general cost-cutting.

The spokesman also suggested that the ambassador was trying to divert attention from the dispatch to Washington of a senior investigator from the Civil Service Commission, who is due this week.

The investigator will probe a report last month in an Israeli newspaper that the ambassador’s American-born wife, Ann, was abusive to the domestic help in their residence, referring to them as ?stupid? and ?retarded.?

Sources close to the ambassador have said they think Mrs. Moses-Shalom put the newspaper onto the story.

Behind the spat lies a slightly weightier grievance involving their husbands. Mr. Ayalon was a midlevel Foreign Ministry official when chosen by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to serve in Washington, the most important posting for an Israeli diplomat.

By handpicking Mr. Ayalon, Mr. Sharon was creating a direct line to the Israeli Embassy in Washington and bypassing Mr. Shalom, a political rival within the Likud Party.

Mr. Shalom reportedly has had ample reason for grievance since Mr. Ayalon has served as a channel to the U.S. administration for Mr. Sharon and his principal political adviser, Dov Weisglass, who have avoided working through the Foreign Ministry.

If political constraints prevented any outspoken protest by Mr. Shalom, no such restraints applied to his wife. Mrs. Moses-Shalom is a newspaper heiress and Tel Aviv socialite who has her own radio program and a finger in many pies.

She has been reported in the past to have had a hand in diplomatic appointments, including those of old friends as cultural attaches, at least one of whom had his term cut short amid charges of sexual harassment.

Mr. Ayalon’s three-year term comes to an end this summer, and it appears doubtful that it will be extended. However, he is a tenured Foreign Ministry employee and presumably can continue in the ministry if he wishes.

Israeli radio cited sources who referred to him as a capable diplomat.

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