Israel: Lieberman's amended indictment may have serious consequences


Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was charged with fraud and breach of trust on December 13, 2012. He said he will not resign. The news comes ahead of elections to be held on January 22.



The indictment against former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was amended on Thursday to reflect that he was involved in urging the appointment of former Ambassador Zeev Ben Aryeh.

Lieberman, the leader of Israel's hardline Yisrael Beiteinu and a prominent coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's, resigned two weeks ago, after he was charged with fraud and breach of trust.

Ynet News reported that while the charges remain unchanged, the revised indictment now includes details of Lieberman's involvement in the appointment of the ambassador.

Haaretz noted that what was initially considered a "minor legal road bump" could now mean "permanent exile" from politics for Lieberman.

The State Prosecutor's office — after being criticized for closing the main case against Lieberman, which included charges of bribery — said they would now include a "moral turpitude" clause in the indictment. Haaretz noted that a conviction would ban Lieberman from politics for seven years under Israeli law.

The legal case against Lieberman could have a significant impact on the next Israeli elections, as Netanyahu and Lieberman's combined party, Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu, was slated to win a majority of the seats.

GlobalPost's Israel correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky explained: "Instead of affecting the election calculus, what this does is make Netanyahu a lot more vulnerable to any party putsch or pressures, and it makes it extremely likely his next coalition will be unstable. Also, some on the extreme who would have voted for Lieberman will now vote for the even more extreme and squeaky clean Naftali Bennett."

The New York Times noted that Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, has emerged as "perhaps the campaign's most dynamic and influential factor."

More on GlobalPost: Your guide to the Israeli elections (PHOTOS)

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky contributed reporting from Jerusalem.