Analysis: Liberman plea bargain far from sure
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
Likud officials say Liberman will still play central role in campaign, he has not resigned from Knesset.
A not-so-quiet civil war exploded in the State Attorney’s Office over the cases
against soon-to-be ex-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, and no one is happy
with what appears to be the compromise that was struck.
Moshe Lador certainly is not happy. He wanted to indict Liberman not only for
fraud and breach of public trust in the smaller Belarus ambassador affair, but
also in the “main” case against Liberman alleging the money-laundering of
millions of shekels, fraud and other charges from 2001-2008.
How do we
know? It’s no secret. Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein spends no fewer than
five pages in his decision to close the case, summarizing point by point how
Lador disagreed with each major fact and reason that Weinstein used as the basis
for his decision.
For example, Weinstein thought the case could not
overcome that the main witness against Liberman, “Daniella,” who resides in
Cypress and allegedly managed much of the finances of the companies under
investigation, changed her testimony against Liberman and said she did not
Lador believed her change of heart was so non-credible
that it would only enhance the credibility of her original story, which
allegedly damaged Liberman significantly.
The attorney-general is not
Although there will always be those who claim that he interferes
too much in politics, the fact is that compared to his predecessors, most
lawyers consider him to be highly cautious and passive.
the lines, he probably wanted to close the main case and only indict Liberman
for breach of public trust in the second case – not fraud. In his ideal world,
he probably wished he was not indicting top ministers at all and certainly not
going after what some view as “minor” or “borderline” criminal
Politically, he was brought aboard with the expectation that he
would be less aggressive than his predecessors and avoid controversial issues
In terms of how he views the law, Weinstein spent his
career as a defense attorney and has consistently appeared to be focused on the
downside and imperfections in cases than could be exploited, as he used to
How was the civil war resolved? From the surprise decision to indict
Liberman in the former Belarus ambassador affair – on not just breach of public
trust but also on the more serious fraud charge – and from the
attorney-general’s highly unusual publicizing of those who opposed him and the
narrative of Lador, it appears a deal was cut.
The trade: if Lador
consents to go along with Weinstein’s decision and publicly calls the closing of
the main case “reasonable,” Weinstein would indict Liberman with a harsher
charge in the second case and give public voice to Lador’s “principled dissent”
about closing the case.
This trade is not mentioned anywhere in the
95-page report closing the main case or the short indictment filed against
Liberman in the second case, and is certainly speculative.
But it is also
hard to miss. Anyone who thought the main case against Liberman was weak would
not be rushing to allege fraud in the second case, which will be harder to prove
than breach of public trust.
Additionally, generally mentioning that the
case was a close call is not unheard of, but giving extensive, detailed public
voice to your inferior’s disagreements with you is simply not done.
it appears Weinstein was willing to negotiate to avoid his biggest fear: of
filing and losing the big case against Liberman.
Lador’s position on
public corruption has been uncompromising to a fault, even appealing to the
Supreme Court on the acquittals of former prime minister Ehud Olmert – where he
has already been embarrassed and will likely be embarrassed again.
was willing to give Weinstein some public support if he would have a chance to
convict Liberman of a serious crime like fraud, and have his reservations listed
regarding closing the main case.
This was no small feat for Weinstein, as
many in the State Attorney’s Office still see him as a defense attorney and an
outsider, whereas Lador has been a “prosecutor’s prosecutor” for most of his
This compromise crucially makes it unlikely that Liberman will
get a quick plea bargain or that the state will do anything special to rush his
trial in time for a decision before the next government forms.
did his part and is basically out of the picture now. How to conduct the trial
and how fast is essentially up to Lador as head prosecutor. Lador has made it
clear in talking about Olmert that he is against persons serving in high posts
who are accused or convicted of any financial crime, let alone fraud.
is not interested in doing Liberman any favors whatsoever. That does not mean
that there will not be a plea bargain at some point or that the trial will not
finish faster than usual.
Lador will grant Liberman the expedited process
that any other person who cooperates with the prosecution would get, and if the
case encounters difficulties, may consider a deal. But that is all that Liberman
Can Liberman try to come back as a minister before the case
is over? Maybe.
Legally, after the election and without being convicted
of a crime carrying a finding of “moral turpitude,” he may be eligible to be a
minister, just as he might not have had to resign on Sunday.
Meretz party and others will be waiting to refile a petition against him with
the High Court of Justice to disqualify him, and he would be just as worthy of
disqualification then as now. Namely, if either the court or Weinstein says that
what he is accused of, if convicted, would carry a finding of moral turpitude,
he could be barred from returning as a minister and suspended from the
Whatever is being said in public, his quick resignation showed
he was not willing to find how a court or Weinstein would rule. For while
Weinstein closed the main case against him, he also hit Liberman with extremely
harsh language, and is trying to hold off an internal revolt with the current