A source close to Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman told The
Jerusalem Post that his trial will not start until after the coming
The acknowledgement makes it less likely he will be able to
immediately return to being a minister in any new government, though he still
might be able to return eventually if acquitted.
Liberman resigned as
foreign minister almost a month ago when the state notified him that he was
about to be indicted.
The case, known as the Belarus Ambassador Affair,
involves allegations that the Yisrael Beytenu chairman failed to report former
ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh for leaking information to him regarding a
money-laundering investigation, and that he helped Ben-Aryeh gain promotions in
the Foreign Ministry in return.
Liberman denies the
At the time of his resignation, he made several hard public
pushes to wrap up the trial before elections so he could run and return to being
a minister without any cloud hanging over him.
Although some commentators
thought that finishing the trial in a month and a half was unlikely, some
believed it was possible.
While the state did not appear to be a in a
rush, all public statements from Liberman’s side indicated there was still a
push to finish the trial before elections or soon after.
This may be the
first time a source close to Liberman admitted that this is no longer possible
and that he is no longer pushing hard for an expedited trial, although the
source spoke anonymously.
Asked how there could be such a delay despite
Liberman’s request for an expedited process, the source said in a resigned and
relaxed fashion that apparently “the schedule of the courts is not the same as
the schedule of the politicians and elections.”
The source also mentioned
nothing about any further plea bargain contacts.
himself had consistently denied a desire for a plea bargain, for several weeks,
sources close to him were suggesting a plea bargain was imminent.
latest comments appear to indicate that the speculation is over: there will be
no plea bargain or expedited trial and that the trial will start after
elections, and likely proceed at a pace (since there are over 20 witnesses) that
will make it impossible for Liberman to immediately return as a
The only procedural issue still up in the air appears to be how
many judges will hear the case. Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein requested on
January 2 that the Jerusalem District Court president order a panel of three
judges to hear the breach-of-trust and fraud case against Yisrael Beytenu leader
The crimes of which Liberman is accused are not serious
enough to require a three-judge panel, as more serious crimes like rape and
However, Weinstein said that due to the public importance of
the case, which could determine the political fate of the now ex-foreign minister
and possible candidate for prime minister in some future election, the court
should exercise its discretion in ordering an enlarged panel of three
In recent corruption cases against former prime minister Ehud
Olmert, one case in Jerusalem had three judges, while one case in Tel Aviv has
had only one judge presiding.