Will Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman
in the coming days? No one knows for sure, but there is plenty to speculate
about and the repercussions could be staggering.
Depending on how bad the
allegations would be, they could deal a body-blow to the influential Yisrael
Beytenu party that Liberman both leads and dominates, and change the entire
right-left bloc’s analysis.
That said, there are many less dramatic
scenarios where Liberman could survive even being convicted without a major
fall, comparable, perhaps to Ehud Olmert.
But first, for those who have
long-forgotten, the foreign minister is under investigation for charges of
fraud, breach of trust, obtaining benefits through deceit, money-laundering and
According to the only earlier draft indictment made
available, Liberman is suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private
businesspeople through six to eight straw companies between the years 2001 and
2008 – while a member of Knesset and holding various cabinet
Liberman allegedly committed these acts while serving as
transportation minister, national infrastructure minister and strategic affairs
The draft indictment stated that Liberman initiated his
business activities shortly after leaving his post as director-general of the
Prime Minister’s Office in 1997.
He allegedly started by establishing two
companies, one in Israel and one in Cyprus. Liberman’s companies, as well as
others he subsequently founded or bought, received “enormous amounts, among
them, funds that had nothing to do with the company’s activities and did not
reflect the revenue from said activities,” said the state.
The draft said
that when Liberman was elected as an MK for the first time in 1999, he conspired
with his lawyer, Yoav Mani, to continue his business activities in violation of
the law limiting the financial activity of elected officials.
suspected that Mr. Liberman misrepresented himself before the public and
the state comptroller in declaring that he had sold all of his shares in the
companies and that he was no longer involved in their operations,” said the
“This, in spite of the fact that he continued to conduct business
through the companies and to receive income from the companies in his control,
all the while submitting false reports of his activities and assets, reports he
was obligated to submit due to his public role,” the draft
Most notably, various close personal associates of Liberman,
including his driver, were said to have run entire companies that he had founded
and supposedly passed on to them.
When questioned, however, it appeared
highly unlikely that the associates had the knowledge or management capacity to
have done anything more than carry out the orders of someone else, such as
It is also suspected that when Liberman resigned from office in
2004, he helped establish another company and registered it in the name of his
then- 21-year-old daughter.
However, it is alleged that he remained the
main beneficiary of the company’s earnings, including when he returned to public
In February 2011, the state closed the book on the bribery
charges section of the investigation, due to the difficulty in gaining access to
Liberman is also suspected of getting tipped-off
illegally by then-ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh in 2008, and allowing
him to subvert the investigation against him.
At that point, police were
investigating allegations that Liberman had accepted bribes and failed to report
income to the tax authorities.
Ben-Aryeh was able to intercept aspects of
the investigation since he was sent a package by the state to pass on to the
Belarusian authorities requesting legal assistance – which nations sometimes
give each other in gathering evidence that exists in a foreign
Rather, than merely passing on the request and its contents to
Belarus, it is alleged that Ben-Aryeh shared the contents of the request with
In June, Ben-Aryeh was convicted of disclosure in breach of
duty and obstruction of justice as part of a plea bargain in which he admitted
sharing classified information regarding the investigation against Liberman with
The police have been investigating Liberman for different
crimes since the 1990s. The latest investigation regarding Lieberman began in
On August 2, 2009, the police handed over the evidence it had
gathered on the Liberman investigation to the state prosecution and recommended
The foreign minister has already undergone three hearings
with the state prosecution, extremely unusual in light of the fact that most
suspects never even undergo a single pre-indictment hearing.
clearer view of what he is accused of, the second question remains. Will
Liberman be indicted in the coming days, leading up to elections? There has been
intense criticism of the state in general and Weinstein in particular for
dragging their feet in deciding how to move forward with the case, neither
attacking Liberman head-on nor giving him a public opportunity to clear his
About a year and a half ago, Weinstein said he had reviewed the
case sufficiently to make a final decision.
As with Weinstein’s
predecessor – who promised to file the indictment during his term, even if it
was his final action in office – the indictment never came, but the case was
also never closed.
Subsequently, Weinstein indicated he might make a
decision a number of times, including after Passover, again in June and once
more in July.
If the decision is going to be to indict Liberman, some say
that there is a track record of the state filing indictments intentionally
during election season, and Channel 2 and 10 reported last week that there would
be a decision in two to three weeks, meaning any day now.
This news came
almost immediately after the information that the Knesset was moving toward
There could be additional criticism regarding the
state’s motivations if the indictment – which has been sitting for so long –
just happens to be filed right as the election campaign kicks into
Recent news reports have speculated that most state prosecutors
involved in the matter think Liberman should be indicted, but that Weinstein has
still not decided.
Also, even within the camp favoring indictment, the
debate is hot on how strong the indictment should be in light of various
Another angle on the Liberman case is that
Weinstein and the state were moving toward indicting him, only to start having
second thoughts again as their flagship cases against former prime minister Ehud
Olmert have either crumbled (the Jerusalem corruption trial) or appear to be
crumbling (the Holyland trial in Tel Aviv).
While all state officials
vehemently deny any connection between the cases, it is hard to ignore the power
of the embarrassment the state has faced in the Olmert cases and how that could
impact the decision to go after a foreign minister on a case which no one says
Many legal experts say that historically, the state has backed
off from prosecuting public figures for years at a time after facing
embarrassing losses, such as some prosecutions of local officials in the
While maybe all citizens should be equal and be held to the same
law, the fact is that a lost case against a regular citizen does not hurt the
state prosecutions’ public standing the way a lost case does when the case
topples a prime minister, or a foreign minister.
On the other hand, the
Ben- Aryeh conviction does not bode well for Liberman.
Liberman can say
he did nothing wrong and had no idea what Ben-Aryeh was showing him until it was
He could add that he did not reveal Ben-Aryeh’s actions since
he did not want to get the latter in trouble – especially for what might have
been a confusing error, since Liberman was Ben-Aryeh’s boss as foreign
Liberman can also say that the state has nothing on him unless
they show something concrete he did illegally to thwart the investigation after
the revelation – which the state may not be able to do.
picture of an ambassador and ally of Liberman’s breaking the rules to help him
plays well with the rest of the narrative that the minister has been breaking
the law for years, but using friends and underlings to keep him immune from