After 12 years of investigation, it has finally been decided – almost – to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on several charges. Lieberman, who will receive a hearing, says he is not worried.
The Foreign Minister is apparently to be charged with money laundering, fraud, breach of trust, and harassing a witness – but not with bribery, even though the investigators sought proof of such.
Sources in the State Prosecution said Lieberman acted “systematically and purposely to hide his ways, while perpetrating continuous illegal acts of fraud.” Before the final decision to indict him is made, he will, as is customary, benefit from his prominence by being afforded a hearing with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
“I have always acted within the law," Lieberman said upon hearing the news, "and I have nothing to worry about. Finally, after 15 years, I will have a chance to defend myself.”
The legal investigation started no fewer than 12 years ago, when then-State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg first raised suspicions of illegal campaign contributions to Lieberman’s “Israel Our Home” party. Only two years later, at the end of 2001, did the police declare its investigation complete – but announced that it was awaiting results of investigations abroad.
This stage took no less than three and a half years, and in May 2005 - shortly before the Disengagement-expulsion from Gaza, which Lieberman strongly opposed - the police submitted its findings to the State Prosecution.
A year later, it was announced that new information had been received on suspicions of bribery and related charges. Then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered a new investigation, but said it must not be treated as a separate case.
In August 2008, the Supreme Court confirmed two appealed lower-court rulings ordering Lieberman’s lawyer to provide documents. The same month, Mazuz dropped most of the charges.
In March 2009, despite two arrests of Lieberman aides, the Supreme Court first criticized the delay in the investigation. In the course of the year, Lieberman was questioned, not for the first time, under caution for several days. No major developments were announced in 2010, and finally this month, less than four months after Weinstein assumed his post as Attorney-General, he announced his intention to indict Lieberman.
Lieberman is outspokenly nationalist and hawkish in his political views, and has made many enemies in the opposing political camp. On the other hand, he favors what comes down to a separation of religion and state on certain issues. He also proposes an exchange with the Palestinian Authority of areas heavily populated with Israeli-Arabs, such as the city of Umm el-Fahm between Hadera and Afula, for parts of Judea and Samaria.
He began his political career as a top aide to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during the latter's first term in office, and later formed his own political party for new immigrants. He is still often politically allied with Netanyahu, and is the Likud's largest government coalition partner.