Despite AG's Plan to Indict, Business as Usual for Lieberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman tells associates he has no reason to be worried, claiming he and his legal team are preparing for the hearing, that he reportedly estimates will take less than half an hour.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told associates yesterday he had no reason to be worried over the attorney general's decision Wednesday to press charges against him. "I know the material very well and I have no cause for concern," he told associates who phoned to encourage him following the recommendation to indict him on fraud, money laundering and other charges.

Lieberman was conveying business as usual, winning a two-hour tennis game in the morning, and only going out to see his lawyers in the afternoon. On arriving at his office, he was told of a new opinion poll giving his party 20 Knesset seats if elections were held now - precisely the goal he had set for the next election. Over the course of the day he received dozens of supportive phone calls and text messages.

Avigdor Lieberman
Archive: Pavel Wahlberg

Lieberman and his lawyers are now sitting down to study the huge amount of material gathered during the investigation of his case: dozens of boxes containing hundreds of files including material from wiretaps over the years.

After Passover, Lieberman and his legal team will begin preparing for the hearing, which Lieberman reportedly estimates will take less than half an hour.

After Lieberman broached the issue of the indictment publicly Wednesday at the Yisrael Beiteinu convention, he reportedly plans to lower his profile on his legal issues. The party's ministers and MKs yesterday declined to be interviewed, as per his request.

Lieberman does not want to be the prosecution's "bad boy" according to sources in his party, but rather wants to calm things down ahead of his hearing. And contrary to expectations that at any minute he could spark a coalition crisis over any one of the clauses of the coalition agreement, those sources said Lieberman would be careful not to take advantage of political crises during the trial.

In fact, Lieberman has begun to prepare for the Knesset's summer session, during which he said Yisrael Beiteinu would continue working toward the establishment of a parliamentary panel to scrutinize left-wing groups, a move that failed two months ago, and to complete legislation on the military conversion bill.

Lieberman is reportedly planning to demand a meeting soon of the security cabinet to discuss ways to bring down the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, a clause in the coalition agreement between Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud that the delegates to the Yisrael Beiteinu convention voted to ratify Wednesday.

From now on, that demand will allow Lieberman to brand himself as a man for whom "a promise is a promise" - in the words of his campaign slogan in the last election - conveying a message of credibility designed to spill over into the legal sphere as well.

Within his party, Lieberman is enjoying wall-to-wall support, sympathy and even admiration. No power struggle over succession can be detected and none is expected to develop.

Senior party figures have said that they are ministers or MKs thanks to one man, and now their fate will be decided according to his. Over Passover, thousands of his supporters will be able to enjoy a picnic with Lieberman in the Ben Shemen Forest, where he will continue to convey that all is well.