Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lieberman's return

Avigdor Lieberman, former FM in the Netanyahu coalition government, was under investigation for 17 years on various charges of corruption during his earlier career. Why it took so long to investigate these charges has not been explained. Nevertheless, last year he was finally indicted and stepped down from his office, but Attorney-General Weinstein then dropped the most serious charges for lack of evidence and Lieberman was only actually tried on one charge, that he illegally appointed the former Ambassador to Latvia to another post because of favoratism. It was alleged that the former Ambassador had warned his friend Lieberman that he was being investigated. However, last week the court of three judges (there are no juries in Israeli courts) found that there was no proven charge of illegality or favoratism and in fact the appointment of the Ambassador was carried out according to routine procedures and there was no evidence that Lieberman as FM interfered in the process. All charges were therefore dropped, a victory for Lieberman and he is free to return to his position as FM.

This has significant consequences for the political future of Israel and the so-called peace talks. Lieberman, for all his faults, is a very canny politician, a Russian street-fighter. He has risen from nothing to the head of his own party, Israel Beitanu (Israel our home), that he merged with Likud, and is now a powerful figure again in Israeli politics. Whether or not Israel Beitanu separates from the joint party Likud Beitanu, Lieberman will be a force to be reckoned with. He holds a key position just to the right of Netanyahu, and as Netanyahu has had to compromise in order to deal with the Americans, the EU and the Palestinians, so Lieberman comes across as the uncompromising rightist. He therefore acts as a counter to the more liberal Tzipi Livni, the Minister of Justice, who is leading the negotiations with the PA for Israel. Although his focus will again be on foreign affairs, Lieberman's main role will be to see that the Israeli Govt. does not do anything stupid in compromising with the Palestinians.

Lieberman's acquital raises several larger questions. Why is it that many Government officials are charged by the State Attorney General, but no cases are brought for many years, and then often dropped? This has happened over and over again, with Ariel Sharon, Bibi Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert and many others. It seems more politically motivated rather than dealing with real cases of corruption. It could have a very negative effect on the credibility of the Attorney General's office and the whole process of State justice. There needs to be a significant and deeper look at how these cases are brought.


Post a Comment

<< Home