Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lieberman resigns

Great things are happening in the world, the Egyptians are voting on a constitution, the Syrian civil war is continuing, there was a school massacre in Connecticut.  Among this welter of news the resignation of FM Avigdor Lieberman might not seem a big thing, but in Israel's small political system it is a bombshell.
To put things in context, Lieberman has been under threat of indictment for 12 years, ever since the began his amazing climb to political success.  He was first suspected of illegally gathering money to support his political ambitions during his tenure of government positions.  He was suspected of money laundering from 9 different countries. Subsequently while this case was being built against him, he was suspected of obtaining inside information from a  friend named Zvi Ben Aryeh, who was the Ambassador to Moldova, and he supposedly tried to promote him to another Ambassadorial position when he had the opportunity.  This latter charge was considered to be fraud and breach of trust.
It is certainly suspicious that after 12 years the charges were brought against Lieberman by Attorney General Weinstein only 2 months before the election.  But, actually the original main charge was dropped for lack of evidence and only the later charge of breach of trust has been placed.  At first Lieberman said he would resign if charged, then he said he would not resign because he was indicted only on the minor charge, then 24 hrs later he reversed himself again and actually resigned.  It is not every day that a Foreign Minister resigns.
This leaves his party, Yisrael Beitanu (Israel our house) in a bit of a shambles, but since they have formed a joint list with Likud the effect will be minimized.  PM Netanyahu has announced that he will retain the Foreign portfolio until after the election or the situation of Lieberman is resolved.  There is some question whether or not Lieberman can in fact return to his former position, but that remains to be seen. 
Many people think Lieberman is a blunt, unsophisticated extremist who is unfit for holding such a position as Foreign Minister.  Nevertheless he seems to have handled the job well and he will remain an MK and leader of his Party  But, many will be hoping that his legal problems will sideline him long enough to make him irrelevant. 


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