Every day that passes in which Avigdor Lieberman serves as foreign minister only intensifies the national disgrace of his failed and inappropriate appointment. When Israel's diplomatic front is quiet, Lieberman stokes the flames and stirs controversy with countries near and far. When his ministry staff try to do their jobs, Lieberman accuses them of leaking information and cancels management meetings. And when law enforcement officials investigate whether he was involved in money laundering, accepting bribes, receiving an item by fraud, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, the foreign minister attempts to stave off those investigating him and interfere with their work. He also complains that the investigation is dragging on, making him a perennial suspect.
On Tuesday, suspicions that Lieberman got others to commit improprieties came to light. Lieberman's close associate and the former Israeli ambassador to Belarus, Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, admitted under police interrogation that about 18 months ago he copied investigative material the Justice Ministry had sent to authorities in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, and showed the copies to Lieberman, who was then a member of the Knesset. Lieberman told his interrogators he had not seen the material nor had he made use of it.
When he was appointed foreign minister, Lieberman promoted Ben Aryeh first to a position whereby he served as his adviser, and then to ambassador-designate to Latvia, despite his awareness of the serious offense that Ben Aryeh is alleged to have committed while serving in Belarus.
Lieberman has responded by accusing Israel Police Commissioner David Cohen of "obstruction of the investigation," as a result of the disclosure of the new case involving Ben Aryeh. Lieberman also petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding the reopening of an investigation into alleged leaks on the part of police who had investigated him in prior cases.
The electoral success of Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party made him immune from political criticism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs him as a coalition partner and is afraid of getting entangled with him. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni hopes to join forces with Lieberman in the future and is therefore refraining from attacking him. Both Netanyahu and Livni prefer to stay in Lieberman's good graces rather than stating the truth: that Lieberman should immediately leave the Foreign Ministry and direct his attention toward his legal defense and proving his innocence.
The prime minister is obligated to remove Lieberman from office. The state prosecutor must finish dealing with the Lieberman case as soon as possible and decide if he should be put on trial. The High Court has set a standard in such cases, by which under "exceptional and extraordinary" circumstances a minister can be removed from office even before an indictment is filed. Such a standard may apply in Lieberman's case and require that Netanyahu remove him.
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