Analysis: Lieberman plays it cool despite hearing

The foreign minister misses his fateful hearing while on official trip to Poland.

January 18, 2012 01:46
2 minute read.
Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

When Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wants to relax, he plays tennis. When he wants to put on a show and tell the world he doesn’t care about what’s going on in the news, he goes to Eastern Europe.

That’s what happened in 2009 when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sweated over whether Lieberman would recommend to President Shimon Peres that he form the government, or whether he would issue a surprise endorsement of Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.

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What is Lieberman being accused of?

While all eyes in politics were on Lieberman, he went to Ukraine on vacation.

Lieberman’s official visit to Poland on Tuesday was planned months in advance.
His hearing on corruption charges was scheduled only a month ago.

Even though it was a complete coincidence that Lieberman was in Eastern Europe while his lawyers were defending him in Jerusalem, it certainly sent a message.

Lieberman has repeatedly mocked the legal establishment for investigating him in a series of overlapping probes going all the way back to 1999. Not showing up for the hearing, even though he was under no legal obligation to attend, enabled Lieberman to broadcast his disdain for the 13- year legal bombardment and demonstrate how cool he is while his fate is being decided.

No one knows how long it will take Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to decide whether to indict Lieberman.

The inability to make such a prediction was reinforced by Channel 10 legal analyst Baruch Kra, estimating it would take two to three months, while almost simultaneously Channel 2 correspondent Guy Peleg reported it would take a year.

Yet it is possible the leaks from Weinstein’s office over the next few days will already be enough to indicate the strength of his case against Lieberman.

Veteran political analyst Hanan Crystal said Lieberman was waiting for such leaks to see if the prosecution would be heavy or light.

He said if the case was light, Lieberman would remain in the government as long as possible in hopes of a quick trial ending before the next election takes place.

He predicted if the case was strong, Lieberman would try to bring down the government by supporting anti-haredi (ultra-Orthodox) legislation, like Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit’s bill that would dissolve religious councils. This would enable Lieberman to head Israel Beiteinu in an election that would be held much sooner.

But Lieberman has said time and again that his legal issues will play no role in deciding the government’s fate. And Lieberman has shown over many years that he is a rare politician who tells the truth.

When the time comes for Lieberman to make a decision about his political future, he could be seen at the Jerusalem Tennis Center, or he might end up in Eastern Europe again.

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