Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Israeli FM Lieberman Acquitted Of All Charges

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party was acquitted today of all charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust by a a unanimous verdict by a three-judge panel. This ends a partisan witch hunt by the State Attorney's office that has gone on for almost a year.

What Lieberman was accused of was his deciding to appoint former ambassador to Belarus Ze'ev Ben Aryeh to the position of Israeli ambassador to Latvia. A year earlier, Ben Aryeh supplied Lieberman, who was serving an MK back then with a document containing sensitive information on the Israel Police's investigation into possible crimes committed by Lieberman in Belarus. Lieberman was able to prove that he did not ask for the document and that he immediately disposed of it upon realizing it contained privileged correspondence between Israeli and Belorussian law enforcement officials. Ben Aryeh was later convicted of obstruction of justice and the dissemination of information to an unauthorized individual as part of a plea bargain.

Ben Aryeh gave three different accounts of what transpired between him and Lieberman and a fourth one in court.

The court also found that Lieberman did not know that the source of the note was an Israeli Justice Ministry investigation against him.

Yisrael Beiteinu is allied with Likud in the ruling coalition, and the post of foreign minister was being held for Lieberman pending the of the trial. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to ask ministers to reinstate Lieberman as foreign minister when the cabinet convened on Sunday.

That's where things get interesting. Lieberman is an outspoken opponent of the so-called peace process with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians, is hardly likely to want to keep his party in a coalition that contains Tzipi Livni and certainly isn't going to go along with the idea of Livni being in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians while he is foreign minister, sitting on the sidelines.

Of course if Natanyahu goes back on his word and doesn't return Lieberman to the foreign minister's seat, Yisrael Beiteinu could very well leave the government. The party has 11 seats, meaning that unless Netanyahu wants to go to new elections he would have to invite either Shas or Labor into his coalition.

Shas would be problematical for Livni's Hatenua and Lapid's Yesh Atid, while Labor would pretty much ensure Naftali Bennett and Bayit Yahudi('Jewish Home')leaving, and possibly a number of Likud members bolting as well.It's a tough fit either way.

We'll see what develops...

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