Lieberman vows to remain foreign minister

Ben-Simon: Labor must quit coalition.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
March 4, 2010 04:06
2 minute read.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

avigdor lieberman i crush you 311. (photo credit: Yoni Hamenahem)

 
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A defiant Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday that he will remain foreign minister until the end of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s term, despite the old and new police investigations against him.

The new allegations that Lieberman received information about an investigation against him from Israel’s then-envoy to Belarus, who later became his adviser, sent shock waves through the political establishment and put new pressure on Labor to quit Netanyahu’s coalition.

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Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) called the new allegations against Lieberman grave, but expressed sympathy with him for enduring criminal investigations that have stretched on for so many years.

“They are torturing Lieberman,” Ben-Eliezer said at a conference on equality in the work force. Even in Zimbabwe, investigations don’t last 13 years. The law enforcement authorities must complete Lieberman’s case, end the farce, and decide once and for all whether he is innocent or guilty.”

Labor MK Daniel Ben-Simon had less sympathy for Lieberman. He slammed Labor ministers for their silence in the wake of the new investigation and called upon them to resign and leave the coalition immediately.

“Allowing Lieberman to remain foreign minister is against the interests of this country,” Ben-Simon said. “With or without this new investigation, every day in which the pyromaniac Lieberman is our foreign minister is an embarrassment for Israel and damages the country.”

Had former MK Ophir Paz-Pines and soon-to-be former MK Yuli Tamir decided to remain in the Knesset, Ben-Simon could have joined them and MKs Amir Peretz and Eitan Cabel and split Labor. But the departures of Paz-Pines and Tamir left Ben-Simon powerless and all of Labor’s 13 lawmakers in the coalition.

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With no ability to take any practical step, Ben-Simon announced his joining the Labor rebels in a letter he intends to send to the party’s activists in honor of the one-year anniversary of the formation of the government on March 31. The Jerusalem Post obtained a copy of the fiercely worded letter in which he calls for Labor to leave the coalition immediately in order to save the country from the people navigating it.

“I gave it a chance, but after a year, I must admit that our place in the coalition has chained Labor to forces with an agenda that endangers what the country has achieved,” Ben-Simon wrote in the letter. “We joined in order to moderate the Right, but instead we completely surrendered to the right-wing, nationalist, religious agenda of the coalition. We joined to advance peace, but instead we find ourselves on the brink of war. We joined in order to represent our constituency, but we have not achieved anything.”

In the letter, Ben-Simon warned that Shas was exploiting the coalition to force religion into every element of life and using the government “as a soup kitchen with black kippa on its head.”

He also blasted Israel Beiteinu for forcing its agenda on an unwilling public.

“Our image in the world has hit a nadir,” Ben-Simon wrote. “Lieberman is busy destroying our diplomacy while his faction is busy with a revolution in every sector of our lives. If they succeed, we will be a country that no one will recognize.”

A source in Israel Beiteinu responded that there was no real threat to the coalition and that his party was unconcerned that the latest allegations against Lieberman would have political ramifications.

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