Clinton (middle), Liberman (right) 370.
(photo credit: Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)
Unless there are major last-minute developments, Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman is going to get off most of the bribery, fraud and money-laundering
charges that have been held against him now for years.
The media has been
speculating for some time that the delay made closing the cases against Liberman
Earlier last week, more specific reports circulated that
most of the charges would be dropped and elaborated upon the reasons for doing
so. But the reports also stated that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein would
file a narrow indictment against Liberman for breach of public trust in his
conduct with former ambassador Ze’ev Ben- Aryeh, convicted of sharing
investigative information with Liberman about the case against him.
Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino gave a speech last week decrying the
dragging out of cases for many years against a suspect, another top public
display of support for dropping charges against Liberman.
But the straw
that broke the camel’s back came from the head prosecutor of the State
Attorney’s Office, Moshe Lador, who on Friday, without naming Liberman,
essentially gave a pre-closing the case explanation of why the case needed to be
closed at an Israel Bar Association event.
Reports have indicated that
while the state has tons of documentary evidence against Liberman, it has failed
across the board to get witnesses to testify against him.
minister is under investigation for charges of fraud, breach of trust, obtaining
benefits through deceit, money laundering and witness
According to a draft indictment made public more than a year
ago, Liberman is suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private
businesspeople, through six to eight straw companies between 2001 and 2008 –
while a member of Knesset and holding various cabinet
Addressing this phenomenon, again without expressly saying the
name Liberman, Lador said that public corruption cases are highly problematic in
He said that oftentimes the law is being broken and
public money taken fraudulently in a way that hurts the public as a whole, but
that there is usually no specific victim or complainant who was hurt
individually by a publicly corrupt act, who wants to testify.
said that many witnesses are concerned about retaliation against them for
testifying, especially if the case gets closed and they need to continue working
for the public official who they turned on.
Even more complex than that,
Lador noted that in light of recent developments, potential state witnesses may
decide against testifying because even convicted politicians now have a record
of returning to power, with a chance to take revenge against those who turned on
Lador implied that the power of the media itself has become
outsized and has intimidated judges from taking courageous stances against
popular politicians – even if they believe the politician is guilty.
one of the clearest implied references to Liberman, Lador emphasized the
problems associated with gathering evidence and getting witnesses to testify
from foreign countries.
It has been widely reported that many of the key
witnesses in any case against Liberman would be from foreign countries, where
the funds that he was suspected of laundering originated or passed
Lador said that some countries had no agreements with Israel to
assist in any way, and even those that did would not necessarily be helpful in
more than document collection, as opposed to pushing one of their own nationals
to testify in a convoluted Israeli case.
It is true that at the end of
the day, it is Weinstein’s call – and not Lador’s. But if anything, most have
thought of Lador as the most passionate proponent of bringing borderline public
corruption cases, and Weinstein as the more cautious of the two.
has thrown in the towel, it is hard to imagine Weinstein taking up the flag
against Liberman on his own.
So it appears that most allegations against
Liberman will be dropped.
What of the Ben-Aryeh affair and the charges of
breach of public trust? Lador did not address these issues, and to date, only
anonymous sources have surmised that these charges would be filed.
if these charges are filed, it may not have a huge impact on Liberman’s
trajectory, especially now that he is part of the larger and dominant Likud
Also, the state may decide to close the older charges now and may
put off the decision about the Ben-Aryeh affair to a later date – such as after
the state’s appeal against the acquittals of former prime minister Ehud
Liberman is still not out of the woods, but after Lador’s speech
he is closer to turning the corner.