It's Politics as Usual for Lieberman, Despite Looming Indictment

Lieberman tells party he will prove his innocence, indicates he has no intention of resigning; the FM will reportedly study the indictment with his lawyers in the coming days and then ask for a hearing.

At the very end of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's long speech to hundreds of Yisrael Beiteinu party activists in Jerusalem last night, he mentioned the attorney general's decision to indict him.

"I want to make a personal statement," the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman told his audience at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. "I know and you know that I always acted according to the law and I have no reason to worry. After 15 years, I have finally been given the opportunity to prove that I acted according to the law, and you know that for me, a promise is a promise."

Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu
Emil Salman

The phrase "a promise is a promise" was taken from Lieberman's election campaign, and his statement was greeted with applause.

In his long speech, Lieberman indicated he has no intention of resigning and that for now, he wants the government to be stable.

Party sources said he will seek to disprove the suspicions at the pre-indictment hearing. Since the draft indictment does not include a bribery charge, the sources say it will not be hard for Lieberman to discredit it.

Lieberman is reportedly going to study the indictment over the next few days with his lawyers, and then ask for a hearing.

"We don't need to amuse ourselves with the idea that this government can be brought down, that it can be replaced with another coalition ... this coalition is stable and responsible," Lieberman said.

Lieberman said the leaders of the three largest parties - Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima - should meet to discuss the outline for the final status agreement with the Palestinians "without talking about establishing a new coalition or even a national unity government," he said.

Lieberman said he believed 80 percent of Israelis would support such a proposal, which would convey to the world powerful internal strength.

Yisrael Beiteinu's third party conference was held yesterday in the shadow of Lieberman's indictment pending a hearing, and it was decided in an unusual step to open part of it to journalists, who crowded the hall. Lieberman was surrounded by particularly supportive colleagues, which became a kind of internal show of political fortitude.

Lieberman prolonged expectations by sitting on the stage for several hours and listening to discussions, and then to the speeches by ministers presenting their achievements. This garnered PR points for the party, as the media heard it all while waiting for the chairman's speech.

Lieberman himself pledged that his party would continue fighting for a law governing conversions in the Israel Defense Forces and the establishment of a parliamentary committee to investigate leftist groups.

Lieberman declined to answer reporters' questions after his speech. Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said: "Just as Lieberman heroically withstood miscarriage of justice for 15 years, he will withstand the hearing and come out innocent."

National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said he was sure Lieberman was innocent, and "we are continuing political activity as usual."