Meretz Chairwoman to Appeal to Court Over Lieberman
Meretz chairwoman MK Zehava Galon declared on Thursday that she intends to appeal to the Supreme Court and demand that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman be forced to resign because of the impending indictment against him.
"Lieberman is the Houdini of corruption, and while he has indeed escaped the more severe indictment over dark financial transactions and shady connections, he will not be able to continue serving as a government minister," said Galon.
She added, "The only opinion on which I rely is that of the Supreme Court, which states that if an indictment is filed for an offense involving moral turpitude against a minister or deputy minister, the Prime Minister's duty is to remove him from office. Therefore, I will appeal to the Supreme Court tomorrow morning.”
Earlier, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said that Lieberman would be charged with fraud and breach of trust in the 2009 case involving the former ambassador to Belarus. At the same time he dropped more serious allegations against him.
"I decided to proceed with a case against Lieberman for having suggested in December 2009 that the government name the former ambassador to Belarus to a post in another country, despite the fact that -- according to the evidence presented -- he knew that he had done wrong in passing along secret information, including details of a police enquiry against Lieberman," Weinstein said.
The decision closes a case that included explosive allegations of fraud, money-laundering and witness tampering. Lieberman has always proclaimed his innocence of all the allegations against him.
Lieberman later rejected calls on him to resign, saying he has been the target of suspicion and questioning for a long time now. He added that he hopes the matter will be settled as soon as possible.
"In 2008 I was in the opposition and I lead a delegation to the Minsk ghetto. On the visit, the ambassador wanted to see me. I went to the hotel and he handed me an envelope. I looked at it, read it and told him to let go of this nonsense. I threw the envelope into the toilet," Lieberman said.
"If I have to I will pay the price in pride...I want the court to decide as quickly as possible," he said, hinting that that he had no intention of resigning and wanted to focus instead on the upcoming elections.
The calls on Lieberman to resign came from both the left and the right sides of the political spectrum.
MK Aryeh Eldad, Chairman of Otzma LeYisrael (Power to Israel), said that these kinds of indictments will lead to the downfall of Israel.
"Lieberman escaped serious charges because the prosecution only held him by circumstantial evidence. Sharon's Greek island affair taught us that criminal allegations against public figures can have crucial ramifications for Israel. We will never be able to know if the sudden change of Lieberman's ambiguous policy regarding the Palestinian state stems from real political concerns or if it is was said at the time due to pressure and blackmail from those who hold real evidence and not just circumstantial evidence against him. Corruption may very well be an existential threat to Israel," said Eldad.
The Labor party headed by Shelly Yechimovich issued a statement on Thursday evening, saying, “Avigdor Lieberman must resign today. The charges against him are very serious, and his behavior – both from the criminal aspect and the moral aspect – endangered and still endangers Israeli democracy and the rule of law."
The party also criticized Weinstein for dropping the more serious charges against Lieberman, saying, “It is clear that the case with the much more serious charges was closed due to a deliberate obstruction of the investigation and the attrition of the police and prosecution, as well as by foot dragging and weakness of the Attorney General.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid also called on Lieberman to quit the race for the Knesset, saying, "It cannot be that a person who, according to the Attorney General, caused material damage to public and acted in a serious conflict of interest in regards to his duties to the public, will continue to serve in the government and represent Israel in the world."
Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of Hatenua, responded to Lieberman's decision not to resign despite the charges against him. She told Channel 2 in an interview, "Every minister who was indicted resigned, and Lieberman himself said he would resign if indicted. It’s a relatively minor indictment when looking at the investigation, which lasted 12 years, but I read the indictment and there is talk in it about a serious conflict of interest.”