'Likud still vying for Foreign Ministry'

Israel Beiteinu officials deny reports of agreement giving Likud the portfolio if Lieberman indicted.

liberman 248.88 ariel (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
liberman 248.88 ariel
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel Beiteinu on Tuesday denied reports that Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu and party head Avigdor Lieberman had agreed that if the latter were charged with any crime and forced to leave the Foreign Ministry, the portfolio would go to the Likud, warning that if that were to happen, Israel Beiteinu would leave the government. Israel Beiteinu officials complained that Likud officials were assuming the Foreign Ministry would soon be vacated, and claimed the assumption was "severely hampering the ability of the Netanyahu government to function, even before it has been built." "In any case, if the portfolio goes to the Likud, Israel Beiteinu will leave for the opposition," emphasized the party officials. Lieberman is under investigation for a chain of alleged white-collar offenses - including bribes, fraud, breach of trust and violations of anti-money laundering laws. Israel Beiteinu stressed that its leader would complete a full term in the ministry, pointing to the protracted nature of the police investigation against him. "Anyone relying on the assumption that Lieberman will be ousted due to the investigation must consider that it will take at least 13 years," said an Israel Beiteinu spokesman, noting that the probe began in 1996. Channel 1 reported Monday night that should the criminal investigation force Lieberman out of the Foreign Ministry, it would not go to Silvan Shalom, but to another top Likud MK - or perhaps to Kadima's Shaul Mofaz, if he broke from his party. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report