The trial of Yisrael Beytenu leader and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman
starts on Sunday in a dramatic case that will determine his political fate and
will likely go down in history with the cases of former prime minister Ehud
Olmert and former president Moshe Katsav.
After months of speculation
about a plea bargain agreement, Liberman is expected to plead not guilty and
deny all the charges against him.
If Liberman, 54, is convicted and his
actions are found to constitute moral turpitude, he will have to resign from the
Knesset and be out of politics for a minimum of seven years, sidelining and
possibly ending the political career of a man who is not much more than a
heartbeat away from the post of prime minister.
On January 27, Jerusalem
District Court President Shlomit Dotan announced the date of the first hearing
and that three judges will hear the case instead of the one required by law,
following a request by Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein due to the “public
interest” relating to the matter.
In the event of an appeal, the decision
of three judges is harder to overturn than that of a single
Liberman was indicted on December 27 for fraud and breach of
public trust relating to the Belarusan Ambassador Affair. He denies all of the
allegations against him.
The indictment said that the Yisrael Beytenu
chairman failed to report an illegal leak by former Belarusian ambassador Ze’ev
Ben-Aryeh regarding an investigation against Liberman for allegedly laundering
millions of dollars.
Liberman also helped Ben- Aryeh receive a promotion
to a new ambassadorship as subsequent “payment” for the leak, the indictment
Ex-deputy foreign minister and former Liberman ally Danny Ayalon
is expected to be one of the star witnesses, among several top Foreign Ministry
and other officials, against Liberman.