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Israeli foreign minister to be indicted on breach-of-trust charge

December 13, 2012|By Edmund Sanders | This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a gathering in Jerusalem on Oct. 25.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Israeli Foreign… (Abir Sultan / European Pressphoto…)

JERUSALEM  -- Israel’s attorney general said Thursday he would indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on charges of fraud and breach of trust but would drop a more serious money-laundering case that had loomed over the right-wing lawmaker’s political career for years.

It remained unclear whether Lieberman, who is seeking reelection Jan. 22 as head of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, would be forced to resign. Lieberman previously vowed to resign if indicted. He was expected to make a statement later Thursday.

Lieberman supporters said resignation was not appropriate because the most serious charges -- money-laundering and obstruction of justice -- had been dropped.

Atty. Gen. Yehuda Weinstein said he would indict Lieberman on charges stemming from allegations that he promoted a former Israeli ambassador to Belarus, Zeev Ben Aryeh, after the diplomat gave Lieberman confidential information regarding the government probe against Lieberman.

The attorney general’s office said it did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute Lieberman on allegations that he secretly received more than $1 million from businessmen who funneled money through foreign companies he controlled.

But in his decision Thursday, Weinstein criticized Lieberman’s behavior, saying evidence suggested that Lieberman relied upon “complex deception" and actively hid his activities.

The foreign minister has consistently denied any wrongdoing, calling the government probe a witch hunt by his political enemies.

Lieberman is one of Israel’s most divisive politicians, with aspirations to one day become prime minister. But his brash style and provocative statements have led critics to label him as anti-Arab and anti-democratic. Around the world, some foreign diplomats shun Lieberman, preferring to deal with other Israeli representatives.

This week he compared recent European criticism of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank to Europe’s failure to protect Jews during the Holocaust.

For the record, 8:38 a.m. Dec. 14: An earlier version of this post included a photograph of an Israeli official incorrectly identified as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The photo was of Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations, Ron Prosor.

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