A source close to Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman told The Jerusalem Post that his trial will not start until after the coming elections.

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 allegations.

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.

Although Liberman himself had consistently denied a desire for a plea bargain, for several weeks, sources close to him were suggesting a plea bargain was imminent.

The 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 minister.

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 Avigdor Liberman.

The crimes of which Liberman is accused are not serious enough to require a three-judge panel, as more serious crimes like rape and murder do.

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 judges.

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.

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