Is­rael’s for­eign min­is­ter charged

Avig­dor Lieber­man ig­nores calls to step down af­ter breach of trust al­le­ga­tions.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byjosef Fe­d­er­man Avig­dor Lieber­man says the new probe is a witch hunt.

JERUSALEM — Is­rael’s pow­er­ful for­eign min­is­ter was charged Thurs­day with breach of trust for ac­tions that al­legedly com­pro­mised a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his busi­ness deal­ings, throw­ing the coun­try’s elec­tion cam­paign into dis­ar­ray just weeks be­fore the vote.

Although Avig­dor Lieber­man was cleared of more se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions against him, the in­dict­ment sparked im­me­di­ate calls for the con­tro­ver­sial politi­cian to step down. He de­clined to do so at a news con­fer­ence but said he would con­sult with his lawyers on what to do next. Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu also ral­lied be­hind his close ally.

Lieber­man de­nied any wrong­do­ing, call­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion against him a witch hunt.

“Ac­cord­ing to my le­gal coun­sel, I do not have to re­sign,” Lieber­man told cheer­ing sup­port­ers at a cam­paign rally. “At the end of the day, I will make a fi­nal de­ci­sion to­gether with my lawyers.”

Lieber­man, a na­tive of Moldova, is head of Yis­rael Beit­enu, an ul­tra- na­tion­al­ist party that is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar with fel­low im­mi­grants from the former Soviet Union. With a tough-talk­ing mes­sage that has ques­tioned the loy­alty of Is­rael’s Arab mi­nor­ity, crit­i­cized the Pales­tini­ans and con­fronted Is­rael’s for­eign crit­ics, he has be­come an in­flu­en­tial voice in Is­raeli pol­i­tics.

Yis­rael Beit­enu and Ne­tanyahu’s Likud Party re­cently joined forces and are run­ning to­gether on a joint list in the Jan. 22 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. Opin­ion polls have pre­dicted they would form the largest bloc in par­lia­ment and lead a new coali­tion government.

But Thurs­day’s de­ci­sion threat­ened to be­come a dis­trac­tion dur­ing the cam­paign. Three lead­ing op­po­si­tion politi­cians all called for his dis­missal. Lieber­man’s de­par­ture could have neg­a­tive con­se­quences for Ne­tanyahu. He is Yis­rael Beit­enu’s founder and main at­trac­tion to vot­ers.

Lieber­man gave no time­frame for de­cid­ing on his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture but said he would con­sider whether the in­dict­ment was harm­ing sup­port for his party in the elec­tion.

Per­haps with this in mind, Ne­tanyahu seemed to come to Lieber­man’s de­fense. In a state­ment, Ne­tanyahu con­grat­u­lated Lieber­man for fend­ing off the “main ac­cu­sa­tions” and said he was en­ti­tled to his day in court.

“I be­lieve in the Is­raeli jus­tice sys­tem, and I re­spect it. The right it gives ev­ery cit­i­zen in Is­rael to de­fend him­self is ex­tended to Min­is­ter Lieber­man and I hope he proves his in­no­cence in the one is­sue re­main­ing,” Ne­tanyahu said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.