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      Lieberman Corruption Charges Fuel Coalition Speculation

      Experts say Israel Our Home may leave coalition if Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is convicted -- but not before then.
      By Zalman Nelson
      First Publish: 7/16/2009, 12:39 PM

      Israel news photo

      Discussion of the opposition Kadima party entering the government coalition has picked up following a recent announcement by police investigating corruption charges against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that all the necessary evidence had been collected.

      On Tuesday, Haaretz reported that the investigation into accusations against Lieberman for money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, was completed and could be passed to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s office next week.

      It is not known if Mazuz will recommend filing criminal charges against Lieberman, and in any case, such a development is likely to take time, experts said.

      If Mazuz does file charges, some political analysts say, Lieberman would likely leave his Foreign Minister position, and his party Israel Our Home (Yisrael Beitenu) may leave the government if Lieberman is convicted.
      The Israeli government has always another party which will replace the other
       Fears about the case collapsing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition are unfounded, one expert said, because the opposition Kadima party may enter the government.

      "If the charges against Lieberman [of corruption] are proved, the opposition Kadima party will enter the government," the Head of the Israeli Center for Strategic Studies Begin-Sadat (BESA), Efraim Inbar told Trend News. "Therefore, the governmental crisis is unreal."

      Senior Likud sources told Ynet Tuesday that Yisrael Beiteinu is likely to stay in the coalition even if a charge sheet is filed against Lieberman.

      The loss of Yisrael Beitenu party would force the Israeli Cabinet to appoint new ministers of Tourism, National Infrastructure, and Immigration -- as well as a Deputy Minister of Internal Security. If Lieberman resigns but his party remains, the only vacant post would be that of Foreign Minister. Likud's Silvan Shalom, a former Foreign Minister, is reportedly very interested in that position.

      Lieberman's party took 15 seats in the recent election and decided to join the coalition government of Netanyahu’s Likud party. Kadima leader and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni refused to join the government. Instead, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Labor party joined the coalition. Likud is hoping to split Kadima by luring MK Shaul Mofaz and six other MKs into leaving the party and creating a new faction that will join the coalition.

      At present, Lieberman is suspected of establishing a front company for the purposes of money laundering, Haaretz reported.

      Gil Ronen contributed to this story