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Israeli FM charged with breach of trust

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm •  Published: December 13, 2012

He denied all the allegations, and said that when he received information about the investigation from his ambassador, he immediately ripped it up and flushed it down the toilet because he knew it was wrong.

Lieberman has said in the past that he would resign if indicted. But he told his supporters that he was only referring to the more serious case against him.

Avraham Diskin, a political scientist at Hebrew University, said Lieberman would have to determine whether the indictment is hurting his party's electoral chances before deciding his future.

"He'll make a calculation. But every move will be coordinated with Bibi. We can be sure of that," he said, using Netanyahu's nickname.

Israeli law is unclear about whether Lieberman must resign. There is a legal precedent for politicians to step down when they face charges that compromise public trust in them.

Analysts said the pressure for him to step down will be great and Weinstein, or even the Supreme Court, could become involved if he refuses.

"What matters is not necessarily the formal severity of the crime but the potential harm in the public's faith in the government and whether the person can continue to project integrity," Moshe Negbi, Israel Radio's legal affairs commentator, said.

Court rulings have forced other Cabinet officials to resign. Facing the prospect of an indictment, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced his decision to step down in 2008 before formal corruption charges were filed against him. Olmert this year was cleared of most charges, but convicted of breach of trust.

The blunt-talking Lieberman has amassed power with support from immigrants from the Soviet Union and other Israelis drawn to his broadsides against Israeli Arabs and dovish groups, as well as the Palestinians and Western Europe.

Lieberman, who once worked as a bar bouncer, immigrated to Israel in 1978 from the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

Known for his Russian-accented monotone, he became a national figure in 1996 Netanyahu's chief of staff during his previous term as prime minister. He later quit the Likud and was elected to parliament in 1999 as head of Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home), a secular hawkish party he established to represent the more than 1 million immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

His party was the third largest in 2009 elections, drawing many votes from native Israelis as well as his traditional base.

Lieberman is known for inflammatory rhetoric that has at times agitated his partners in government. He has called for executing Israeli Arab lawmakers who met with leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. As a lawmaker in 2008, he said Egypt's then-President Hosni Mubarak "can go to hell."

More recently, Lieberman pushed a series of legislative proposals that critics said were anti-Arab, including a failed attempt to require Israelis to sign a loyalty oath or have their citizenship revoked. He has also called for redrawing Israel's border to place Arab towns under Palestinian jurisdiction.

He also has embarrassed Netanyahu by expressing contrasting views to that of the government, including skepticism over the chances of reaching peace with the Palestinians. Lieberman has called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an "obstacle to peace" and urged his removal.

Earlier this week, he lashed out at the international community, saying many world leaders would sacrifice Israel to radical Islam just as Europe appeased the Nazis before World War II.


Associated Press writer Lauren E. Bohn contributed to this report.