Aharonovitch defends Lieberman ahead of decision by A-G

Public security minister also says country should have tougher response against Grad rockets.

Only days before the deadline promised by the attorney-general’s office for a decision on Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman’s criminal investigation, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch over the weekend came out swinging in defense of his party leader.
Aharonovitch, who addressed a Beersheba audience on Saturday, also said that Israel must respond severely to last week’s rocket attacks against the Negev’s largest city.
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“I wouldn’t fall off my chair if he came out innocent,” said the public security minister, emphasizing that the charges of corruption had already been eliminated from Lieberman’s file. Aharonovitch, who had previously remained relatively silent on the subject of Lieberman’s ongoing criminal investigation, added that the foreign minister has suffered at the hands of the justice system for 14 years now.
Later this week, the attorney- general’s office is expected to deliver a decision as to whether the Israel Beiteinu party leader will stand trial. Nevertheless, reports circulated over the weekend that the attorney- general’s office would not, contrary to promises repeatedly made, complete its work on Lieberman’s file by the end of the month.
Aharonovitch added that Lieberman “certainly could lead the state of Israel,” but also expressed his hope that the party could survive without him as well.
“Israel Beiteinu has captured a large sector within Israeli society. It is hard for me to picture the party without Lieberman, but nevertheless, there is a possibility that even if he were outside of it, it would remain a prominent party.”
The first-term minister offered Beersheba residents tough talk on the topic of the Grad rocket fire that hit the city last Wednesday.
“It is impossible to ignore rocket fire targeting Israeli residents. The response should be much more painful. Grad fire on Beersheba or against other cities crosses the boundaries,” he said. “I think that the country and that the IDF must respond much more severely. I will demand that within the government. No country in the world would be willing to allow Grad rockets to fall on its residents.”
He added that he did not believe that the scale of Israel’s response against the Gaza Strip should be impacted by considerations regarding the implications for captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. “Gilad Schalit must be brought home – it should have been done a long time ago. But that isn’t related to the response. As far as I understand, you don’t have to consider for even a second the soldier that is there somewhere. The response should be severe, without taking into consideration the hostage who is there,” the minister said.
“There is a government, which is responsible for making the most difficult decisions. If there are those in Hamas who think that it is possible to take actions [against us], I say to them that they ought not try, because when the IDF responds, it will be much more severe,” Aharonovitch warned.