Exit of foreign minister roils Israeli politics
JERUSALEM — The resignation of powerful Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Benjamin Netanyahu’s top Cabinet partner, has shaken up Israeli politics a month before elections. Analysts say Netanyahu is likely to survive but is losing a valued ally.
Lieberman announced his resignation Friday, a day after the attorney general filed an indictment for breach of trust in a fraud and money-laundering case.
“I did not break any law,” he insisted, and voiced confidence he would be cleared before the Jan. 22 election.
Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu and Netanyahu’s Likud Party recently joined forces in the parliamentary election, enabling the charismatic ultranationalist to position himself as Netanyahu’s heir.
Opinion polls have predicted the list would be by far the largest bloc in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and would lead a new coalition government. But without Lieberman’s sway, negotiations for such a coalition among fractious parties will be more complicated.
The blunt-talking politician, a native of Moldova, amassed power with support from Soviet Union immigrants and others drawn to him against Israeli Arabs, dovish groups, the Palestinians and Western Europe.
His resignation could mean that Netanyahu would be stuck with a list of leftovers offering little appeal to voters.
Lieberman spokesman Tzachi Moshe said the minister is not resigning from the party list, meaning he is still running for parliament.
Avraham Diskin, a political scientist at Hebrew University, said said Lieberman’s absence might push voters to parties even further right.
Lieberman has had 16 years of investigations into suspicions he illicitly received millions of dollars from businessmen and laundered the cash through straw companies in eastern Europe.