Almost three weeks ago reports that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein would
decide within two to three weeks whether to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman or to close the case against him were rampant.
rigorously about his sources on Channel 10 News, legal affairs reporter Baruch
Kra said that despite numerous false starts on the issue in the past, this time
his sources were adamant that a decision was imminent.
the two week deadline has passed, and there are two more days to the three-week
But observers should not hold their breaths on an imminent
decision, and the chance of an indictment is becoming more and more
The foreign minister is under investigation for charges of fraud,
breach of trust, obtaining benefits through deceit, money laundering and witness
According to a draft indictment made public more than a year
ago, Liberman is suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private
businesspeople through six to eight straw companies between 2001 and 2008 –
while a member of Knesset and holding various cabinet positions.
As if to
remind the public of Liberman’s legal issues, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court
sentenced one of Liberman’s former appointees, Ze’ev Ben- Aryeh, to four months
of community service for illegally sharing information about the investigation
against him while serving as ambassador to Belarus.
But the fanfare
behind the latest “deadline” and the fact that it has essentially passed is a
further signal that this case is going nowhere.
Another possible sign
that Liberman will not be indicted is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent
announcement of a unity deal with the foreign minister’s Yisrael Beytenu
Although it is impossible to fully dissect the motivations
surrounding the unity deal, it is difficult to ignore the possibility that
Netanyahu would not be going through with it if he did not have some sense from
Weinstein that Liberman will not be indicted.
To join with Liberman a day
or two before he gets indicted would be an incredible error by a politician
known for being tactically conservative and careful.
Next was Weinstein’s
memorandum sent to all government ministries shortly after the decision was
announced to go to general elections.
The attorney-general specifically
instructed all government ministries to hold off, if at all possible, on making
any important decisions until after the next Knesset was formed.
attorney-general’s memorandum indicated that until there is a new Knesset, the
current ministers serve more of a caretaker faction and do not have the same
authority during a transition period to elections.
announcement was undoubtedly targeted at a number of initiatives, such as
sending a shot off the bow of ministers trying to make major changes on
settlement policy, one cannot ignore it in showing Weinstein’s distaste in
trying to tamper with policy during the run up to elections.
Some ministry workers and attorneys at the Justice Ministry may especially want
to make a statement or take a shot at particular officials during election
season, but Weinstein does not approve.
Getting further into speculative
territory, it is possible that there are still disagreements about the case in
the Justice Ministry.
It is also possible that Weinstein was getting
ready to decide, but that head state attorney Moshe Lador’s decision to appeal
the acquittals of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, convinced Weinstein to hold
off again until the appeal is decided.
Although there is no official
connection between the cases, if the Supreme Court upholds Olmert’s acquittals
it can only strengthen anyone in the Justice Ministry who wants to close the
Conversely, if the court surprises the pundits, reverses
the lower court and convicts Olmert, it can only strengthen anyone in the
Justice Ministry who wants to file charges against Liberman.
But of all
of the above factors, the most convincing that the case will be closed remains
the delay and the newest missed “deadline.”
After years of waiting,
immediately after new elections were announced would have been a high impact
time to announce an indictment.
This is highlighted by the Movement for
the Quality of Law in Israel’s just-filed petition to the High Court of Justice
to order Weinstein to make an immediate decision on the issue.
winning cases that take years to assemble, but most winning cases have an
obvious path to prove guilt, and most losing cases are losers because time does
not clear up the evidentiary question marks.
While anything is possible,
the missing of yet another deadline suggests that the struggle here is not about
whether to indict, but how and when to close the case so as to reduce the public
anger and internal disenchantment within the State Attorney’s Office among those
who assume Liberman is guilty.