Call for A-G to Resign after Lieberman Verdict

After 17 years of legal woes, Lieberman is found innocent. Prime Minister calls to congratulate, Opposition Head calls for appeal.

Gil Ronen ,

AG Yehuda Weinstein
AG Yehuda Weinstein
Israel news photo: Flash 90

For 17 years, the State Attorney's Office has conducted investigations against Avigdor Lieberman, but none of them produced enough solid evidence of wrongdoing to justify a charge sheet. Charges were finally filed last year, in the matter of a political appointment – but they were rejected unanimously by a three-judge panel Wednesday morning.

It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the political reactions to the verdict include criticism of the State Attorney's Office, or Prosecution, which is headed by the Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, who is also the Legal Adviser to the Government.

Minister of Economics and Trade, Naftali Bennett, congratulated Lieberman for the acquittal, which he said came after he was victimized by the legal system for many year. He said that he is happy that MK Lieberman will go back to being Foreign Minister. "We will be able to cooperate and he will go back to contributing his abilities for the benefit of the nation of Israel," said Bennett.

Bennett's religious-Zionist Bayit Yehudi party cooperated with Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu in a recent bid to present a bill that would make it impossible to free terrorist prisoners through a presidential pardon. The cooperation between the parties was seen by some as the formation of a right-wing axis within the government.

Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) also congratulated Lieberman, whom he called "my friend," and expressed hope that he would return to the diplomatic arena with "renewed vigor."

"It is too bad that he waited many years for this justice," added Ariel. "This is a serious instance of legal persecution that we must not accept, as a state. It harms democracy and the right to due process."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Lieberman and congratulated him after the verdict, saying that he is "glad that you are returning to the Israel government so that we can continue to work together for the nation of Israel."

Opposition Head MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) called on the A-G to appeal the verdict. "Public corruption is no less serious than criminal corruption," she said. 

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel said that the verdict deals a harsh blow to the public's trust in the A-G and the State Attorney's Office. Forum Director Nachi Eyal said that after the unanimous acquittal – the decision to file charges appears "very questionable." Eyal called upon the A-G to resign.

The Ometz anti-corruption NGO also called on Weinstein to resign, blaming him for deciding to drop charges against Lieberman in the "main case" against him, which involved charges that he illegally received millions of shekels.

"The Attorney General expressed complete confidence in Lieberman's conviction in the only case he has filed thus far against a public figure – and failed. In view of this, we have doubts regarding the A-G's proper discretion in deciding to close the main case against Lieberman, a decision that was met with sharp legal criticism from senior jurists who were well acquainted with the case."