Israeli foreign minister resigns to fight charges
Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has announced his resignation from the government, a day after the attorney general decided to indict the leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party on charges of fraud and breach of trust.
Mr Lieberman, who was also deputy prime minister, has always maintained his innocence. He said after consultations with his lawyers that there was no legal requirement to step down, but he wanted to put the affair behind him before the January elections.
“Though I know I did nothing wrong, after years of legal proceedings, investigations and wire-taps, I want to resign so I can put this whole affair behind me,” he said.
“I believe the citizens of Israel have the right to go to the ballots after this whole issue is put to rest, meaning after the matter is settled in court, and I can continue to serve the public and the state as part of a strong and united leadership that will meet the security, economic and diplomatic challenges facing the country.”
If convicted, he will not be allowed to serve as a minister.
His statement indicated he intends to return to a top ministerial position in the next government, assuming Likud- Beiteinu heads the coalition.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu wished Mr Lieberman luck in “proving his innocence” and said he would keep the foreign ministry portfolio “in trust” until after the election, with the aim of reinstating Mr Lieberman “if the law so allows”.
On Thursday, attorney general Yehuda Weinstein decided to drop major corruption charges against Mr Lieberman, but indicted him on charges of working to promote Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus without disclosing the fact that the diplomat had illegally leaked documents to Mr Lieberman concerning an investigation against him.
Labour leader Shelly Yachimovich said the indictment had “severely undermined the rule of law and the public’s trust in its elected leadership and democracy”.