Avigdor Liberman 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Could Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s position on the fate of Ramat Gan
Mayor Zvi Bar impact the future of Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor
Liberman? Weinstein told the High Court of Justice on Sunday that legally Bar
must be removed from office as mayor on the basis of the indictment against him
for bribery, fraud and other crimes while in office.
At first glance, the
two cases could not be more different.
Liberman was foreign minister,
elected on a party slate and is accused of less serious charges that do not
include formal bribery.
In contrast, Bar was a local official, elected
directly by the public and was accused of much more serious charges centering on
Also, Liberman was more proactive than Bar, resigning as foreign
minister within days of being indicted, eliminating the need for any petition to
the High Court to remove him, and the question at hand is not resignation, but
whether he will be convicted.
Yet Weinstein’s reasoning, if accepted by
the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court presiding over Liberman’s case, could lead to
While Weinstein made many points, the bottom line was that
any crime committed in an official’s public capacity and through use of their
public powers should serve as a multiplying factor to the severity of the
In Bar’s case, this meant that he is obligated to resign after
merely being indicted and not yet convicted, despite the principle of “innocent
until proven guilty.”
However, in the case of the former foreign
minister, this could mean a finding of moral turpitude, which would blacklist
Liberman from politics for seven years, even if he is convicted on charges that
are relatively minor in a general criminal sense.
In the Belarus
Ambassador Affair, Liberman, who has denied all charges, is accused of failing
to report receiving an illegal tip from then-ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev
Ben-Aryeh and of subsequently helping Ben-Aryeh gain a new
Many asked, who cares? Liberman is not accused of
soliciting illegal help from Ben-Aryeh; even the prosecution says that Ben-Aryeh
took Liberman by surprise.
Regardless of whether they say Liberman was
involved in the promotion or not, all Foreign Ministry witnesses in the case,
including those against Liberman, have said that there is nothing odd about a
foreign minister being involved in an ambassadorial
Moreover, Ben-Aryeh was caught before he accepted the
appointment, so, many say, no damage was done.
But Weinstein’s statement
in the Bar case indicates that such an analysis misses the real
The real point, according to the attorney-general, would be that
Liberman used his power as foreign minister to reward someone for an illegal
act, and that such conduct should automatically eliminate an individual from
holding any public position, from foreign minister down to
Obviously, if Liberman is acquitted, he is home free.
if he is convicted even merely for breach of public trust, the view that his
specific alleged criminal activities were inextricably linked with his abuse of
public power could end his storied career.
In addition, this view would
represent another unsaid factor for why Weinstein brought the Belarus Ambassador
Affair to trial, as opposed to the money-laundering case. The money-laundering
case, while involving far more serious charges, was against Liberman the private
citizen, whereas Weinstein may have liked his chances better targeting Liberman
for his alleged conduct as a public servant.