Analysis |

Indictment Is Nothing but a Small Bump in Lieberman's Political Career

The Avigdor Lieberman file wandered along all those years, changing form. It got stronger or weaker, bloated up or lost weight (the case, that is ) between slats and among drawers.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Israel's longest investigation into a public figure - marked by inexplicable and intolerable foot-dragging - ended feebly Thursday, considering the original allegations. The saga has gone on for 12 years - 12 years of governments and prime ministers coming and going, along with legal advisers, police commissioners, investigators and state prosecutors.

The Avigdor Lieberman file wandered along all those years, changing form. It got stronger or weaker, bloated up or lost weight (the case, that is) between slats and among drawers.

Meanwhile, Lieberman's party grew and grew, and so did his political power as he skipped among various ministries until he reached the pinnacle of foreign minister. No wonder he would tell people that everything was "just heaven" - a term that has become his signature phrase.

After a former president was convicted and imprisoned, a former prime minister was convicted and a former finance minister and social affairs minister were convicted and sent to jail, a foreign minister has been indicted. Indeed, true heaven.

To ordinary people, Lieberman has been indicted over a fairly negligible matter: The Israeli ambassador to Belarus gave Lieberman a letter involving his investigation. He read the letter and destroyed it. Lieberman later appointed the ambassador to his staff and later the ambassador was sent by a Foreign Ministry committee to represent Israel in another country.

Truth be told, this isn't something that knocks your socks off. The main case's details that appear in Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's slowest-ever report are the hair-raising details.

The assumption in the political world Thursday was that Lieberman would cut a deal Tzachi Hanegbi-style. He would confess, get a slap on the wrist without jail time or the stain of moral turpitude, or a kind of short-term moral turpitude that would let him become a minister in the next government.

Lieberman said last night he wants a "speedy trial." Either way, this affair didn't stop him on his way to his next appointment, which could even be the defense portfolio. This is just a small bump in the road of Lieberman's political career.

The question is whether he will resign from the cabinet until the trial is over or until a plea bargain is hammered out. In the past he pledged he would do so. On Thursday, he seemed not to be looking forward to leaving the Foreign Ministry.

But he may not have a choice. The decision will be made in the coming days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hears the attorney general's opinion. Meanwhile, Netanyahu welcomed, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar supported and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan encouraged. How pleasant it is to be in the ruling party.

The leaders of the center-left opposition are demanding that Lieberman resign immediately. Until he does, they won't let him be. This serves their election campaigns. We can already imagine the electioneering of the Labor Party, Hatnua and Yesh Atid, with an indicted minister in the starring role.

We have 39 days until the election, nearly four years since the second Netanyahu government was established. In those four years, Lieberman would call reporters in for briefings at the Knesset three or four times a year.

Each of those times he would be asked what would happen to him; how would he respond to the serious indictment hanging over his head. He would say he had no doubt he would serve out his term as foreign minister. We have to admit, he wasn't very wrong.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem, May 20, 2012.Credit: AP

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