Analysis: Not such a Garden of Eden

Avigdor Liberman must have envisioned several scenarios for his historic court case.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
With the famous “everything is a Garden of Eden” comment he uttered the day his original indictment was announced on December 13, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman must have envisioned several scenarios.
All of them likely involved a full or overall acquittal and no finding of moral turpitude.
But he probably also was focused a lot on timing.
His best scenario was to finish the trial before elections. He could go into election day with his name cleared, maybe get a pre-election-day bounce and go right back to his office in the Foreign Ministry as if he had merely taken a long vacation.
That was never very likely, but when the initial indictment was announced, with fewer witnesses than ultimately turned up on the indictment that was actually submitted, it was not completely impossible.
It essentially became impossible when a Channel 10 report on missed testimony from outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and other Foreign Ministry officials pressured the prosecution to decide to reopen its investigation and requestion Liberman – killing another two weeks.
When the final indictment was submitted on December 27, the election was less than a month away. There were now 23 witnesses, and the fact that the state decided to take two weeks more for the investigation showed that prosecutors were in no rush to comply with Liberman’s desired schedule.
Still, there was an outside shot that the trial could be started before elections and finished soon after, allowing Liberman to return to the Foreign Ministry upon the formation of a new government.
This became nearly impossible, though, when the court waited until January 27 just to announce that the trial would start only on February 17.
Liberman’s chances of seamlessly rejoining the new government upon its formation were finally put to rest on Sunday when the court set a trial schedule that would not have it reconvene until late April, and probably not finish before late May or early June – and then only if there are no delays.
Liberman’s lawyers knew this all too well as they pushed off the court’s suggestion of having a hearing in late March or early April due to Passover, preferring to defer the case a few more weeks. These are the actions of people who know that they have missed the “get immediately into the new government” deadline.
His legal team is still doing everything it can to speed things along: They made no general claims to try to beat the charges before hearing witnesses; no claims that his police interrogation was improper in any way; and none of the other usual attempts to beat the charges and avoid a full trial.
They want to move on to the witnesses and get the court to rule.
If Liberman is acquitted in late spring, it has been widely speculated that he will return to the Foreign Ministry if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “holds” the post for him. But the whole idea of “holding” is very uncertain, and Netanyahu, no matter how loyal he is to his political ally, would likely consider the formation of a new government more important.
Even with an acquittal, the state might appeal, as it did with former prime minister Ehud Olmert, something that would keep Liberman out of the cabinet for another three or six months, or perhaps longer.
None of these possibilities are anywhere near the “Garden of Eden” scenario Liberman was hoping for.
While it might not be easy to prove the crimes he is accused of, his claims that this would be an easy case must now be viewed from the current vantage point, which he does not control and has not succeeded much in influencing.