Prime Minister Netanyahu and former FM Liberman 370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman back to the government after his acquittal from fraud and breach of trust charges Wednesday, with other ministers following suit.
"I congratulate you on your unanimous acquittal and am glad you are returning to the Government of Israel so we can continue to work together for the good of the people of Israel," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said.
Liberman headed straight to the Western Wall after hearing the verdict.
"I would like to thank all of those who sent their wishes and those who expressed their support during the whole process. Together, we will continue to work for the good of the People and the State of Israel," he wrote on Facebook soon after.
Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers called for an appeal and bashed Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein's behavior.
Liberman is expected to return to the job he held in the last Knesset, Foreign Minister, as soon as next week, when he is expected to be sworn in by the Knesset.
Meanwhile, several MKs are competing to take his place as Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman, including MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud Beytenu), who held the position in the 17th and part of the 18th Knesset, coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) and Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ofir Akunis.
Yesh Atid also made a claim to the chairmanship, because the party leads fewer committees than other coalition factions, and sees MK Ofer Shelah as its candidate for the job.
Many opposition MKs were less than pleased with the verdict.
"I believe with all my heart that the judges in Jerusalem did their job and made a decision based on the proof they have, but it cannot be that a person who disrupted an investigation abroad, an investigation that cost millions, and did not tell anyone that his ally, who he promoted, did the same," opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said.
According to Yacimovich, corruption is no less problematic just because it is not criminal and Liberman is a corrupt person.
"I call on the Attorney General to instruct the State Attorney to appeal," she added. "We cannot let such a serious issue go without making sure to overturn every stone. The people who suffered here are the police, the State Attorney's Office and the courts who [Liberman] tortured for many years."
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On also said that she respects the court's decision, but that Weinstein's behavior should be examined, since he closed the other, more serious corruption case against Liberman.
Meanwhile, Yesh Atid leader Finance Minister Yair Lapid said he "warmly congratulates" Liberman, as did Bayit Yehudi leader Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who added that "this acquittal comes after too many years of torture by the legal system."
Similarly, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon congratulated Liberman on his return to politics "in light of the challenges the State of Israel faces."
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also congratulated the Yisrael Beytenu leader, adding that she has "complete trust in law enforcement and the courts."
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin also congratulated the man who will presumably be his new boss, saying he's "happy that Liberman is returning to politics, and as we proved in the past, I'm sure we'll be able to work well together."
Shas leader MK Arye Deri, who served time in prison for corruption charges, also said he is happy for his "friend" Liberman and lamented the "great suffering" the Yisrael Beytenu leader underwent.
"The acquittal means the public must open its eyes to the persecution by the forces of evil of anyone who is not part of their elite group," MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) said.