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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lieberman out as foreign minister, remains MK

Having been indicted for breach of trust and fraud, Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman has resigned as Foreign Minister, but remains a Knesset member. Ironically, there is talk here that Prime Minister Netanyahu may make Lieberman's recently deposed deputy, Danny Ayalon, the Foreign Minister.
Moments after he handed in his letter of resignation, the foreign minister asserted that his break will be short. "I am leaving temporarily" he said, after what he described as four very interesting years in the Foreign Ministry. 
Liberman said that he was not concerned about the trial ahead of him and hoped the process would be quick. He also said that he wants a trial rather than a plea bargain, making it very unlikely that the legal process will be complete by the time the government is formed in March. 
He added that every move he had made was for the good of the public and the break would give him time to focus on elections. "Israel needs a strong prime minister with a clear majority," rather than having to rely on sliver parties, he stated.
The foreign minister confirmed on Saturday night that he had not resigned from the Knesset or as chairman of Yisrael Beytenu, and was still running in the election with the hope of getting a top ministerial position in the next government, assuming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu forms the next coalition.
Likud officials said that they wont hide Liberman in the campaign and that he will play a central role. They added that they appreciated his resignation because it enables the election to return to key diplomatic and security issues rather than focusing on Liberman.
Liberman announced Friday that he would be stepping down, hours after Meretz filed a petition asking the High Court of Justice to order his resignation.
In a statement published by his office, Liberman said his legal counsel advised him he did not have to resign. Nonetheless, he said he would do so in order to fight the charges against him, thereby enabling him to serve in the next government if exonerated. Liberman has denied all wrongdoing and called for expedited legal proceedings.


A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu would retain the title of foreign minister until the next government is formed, dispelling rumors that a Likud minister such as Vice Premier Silvan Shalom or Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor would be given the post.
According to Israeli constitutional processes, when a minister resigns, his deputy automatically resigns with him.
Netanyahu and Liberman both want Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to remain in his post, so Netanyahu is expected to ask the Knesset to approve Ayalon’s reappointment.
Liberman’s decision follows Weinstein’s surprise announcement on Thursday that he will charge the foreign minister not only with breach of trust, but also with fraud, in a 2008 case involving obstruction of justice by former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben- Aryeh.
It was widely predicted that Liberman would be charged with breach of trust for allegedly not revealing that Ben- Aryeh leaked information to him regarding a separate investigation against him when he visited the ambassador in Belarus in 2008. But the charge that by allegedly helping Ben-Aryeh advance to two additional positions in the Foreign Ministry as “payment” for Ben-Aryeh’s leaking classified information to Liberman, he had committed fraud, came as a surprise.
At the same time, Weinstein decided to close the “main” case against Liberman, regarding wider and more serious allegations of money-laundering millions of dollars, fraud and other allegations from 2001 to 2008.
If Lieberman insists on going to trial, he will not be finished in time to be appointed to a ministerial position in the next Knesset. If he cops a plea, he will not get the exoneration he seeks.

If the public gets its wishes, the next government will be formed by Likud-Beiteinu, Labor and Jewish Home. Labor claims they won't go into a government with someone under indictment (kind of ironic, given that Labor was by far the most corrupt party until Ehud K. Olmert came along). If that holds, look for Labor's place in the next government to be taken by the Haredi parties. In fact, even if it doesn't hold, I cannot see Labor going into the government because government that includes both the Likud and Jewish Home will not sufficiently support the 'peace process' for Labor's tastes.

A mentch tracht un Got Maft (people think and God does)....

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