Israel Lands Chief Quits Despite Criminal Probe Being Dropped

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Bentzi Lieberman, head of Israel Lands Admnistration, in June 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Bentzi Lieberman said Monday he planned to step down as director of the Israel Lands Administration even though police ended an investigation without indicting him.

Lieberman’s term at the ILA, the government body charged with managing and marketing the state’s vast tracts of land, was only due to end in September.

His announcement came 15 months after investigators from the police’s Lahav 433 fraud squadron raided the ILA’s Jerusalem offices and detained Lieberman for questioning. In March 2015, they recommended that prosecutors indict him for breach of trust for allegedly advancing the interests of the real estate company Kardan, where Lieberman had served as a consultant before being appointed ILA head in September 2011.

But last November then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to close the case and instead ordered a disciplinary hearing, a process that still hasn’t been completed.

Despite the investigation and the hearing he faces, Lieberman never officially resigned or was put on leave, but he was not reporting to work. Instead he used vacation and sick days coming to him and finally went on unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is responsible for the ILA, had appointed Adiel Shomron as acting ILA director. The ILA has a key role in overseeing the Mechir L’Mishtaken (Target Pricing) program, Kahlon’s key strategy for reining in soaring housing prices by making state-owned land available at lower prices to contractors.

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