The indictment against Israel’s former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman was revised this week to include stronger wording that may affect his political future.
Although he is still charged with fraud and breach of trust, the new wording describes actions that verged on bribery. If a judge agreed with this, Mr Lieberman could be found guilty of ‘moral turpitude’ and could be barred from politics for seven years.
The new indictment says that Mr Lieberman actively worked to secure the appointment of Ze’ev Ben Aryeh as first an adviser in the Foreign Ministry and then as an ambassador to Latvia. This, claims the indictment, was “a form of recompense for someone who had committed grave acts on his behalf”.
The original indictment only accused Mr Lieberman of failing to reveal to those appointing these positions that Mr Ben Aryeh had given Mr Lieberman information about an investigation against the then foreign minister.
Mr Lieberman is accused of summoning his deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, and telling him to ensure that Mr Ben Aryeh was appointed the ambassador to Latvia. Mr Ayalon has now been announced as a prosecution witness after Mr Lieberman surprisingly omitted him from Yisrael Beiteinu’s list of Knesset candidates
Mr Lieberman responded to the new indictment by saying: “I repeat I did not break any law and that has not changed. I want this matter to be quickly sorted out in court.”
Continuing to cause controversy on Friday, Mr Lieberman said that diplomatic negotiations can resume between Israel and Palestinians only if the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas steps down. Mr Abbas had said in an interview with Haaretz that if the stalemate in negotiations continued and construction of settlements did not come to an end after the elections in January, he would dismantle the PA and ask Israel to take over control of the West Bank.
Mr Lieberman responded: "We are congratulating Abu Mazen [Mr Abbas] for reaching the correct conclusion, that only after his disappearance from the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, it will be possible to renew the diplomatic process."
"Abbas remaining in power," Mr Lieberman said, "is precisely what will eventually bring Hamas and other radical Palestinian factions to power, as occurred in Gaza."