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Estimate: Lieberman's party won’t quit government in case of indictment

Politicians raise speculations over Yisrael Beiteinu's future in Coalition following completion of investigation against party leader, with senior Likud members already eyeing Foreign Ministry. Legal experts unsure Lieberman will be charged

The investigation against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which came to its end in a summarization meeting Tuesday at Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's office has already set the political arena abuzz.


The main question raised regards Yisrael Beiteinu's future in the government, should its leader Lieberman be indicted. At the same time, legal experts have clarified that the road to an indictment is still long.


Following the Ynet report about police investigators' meeting with Mazuz, politicians are waiting naturally for the attorney general's official decision, but senior Likud sources told Ynet on Tuesday evening they believed Yisrael Beiteinu would remain part of the Coalition even if Lieberman were to be indicted.


According to estimates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement with Lieberman during the coalitional negotiations, that the party would not quit the government even if its leader were indicted, as this would destabilize the cabinet.


Should Yisrael Beiteinu decided to leave, Kadima will have the option of joining the government. Chairwoman Tzipi Livni has said several times in the past that the political game will reopen if Yisrael Beiteinu is not longer part of the government. In such an event, Kadima may reconsider joining the government.


Simultaneously, several senior Likud members are already eyeing the Foreign Ministry, should Lieberman resign following an indictment. The list of potential "successors" is being led by Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, who has even threatened not to stay in the government if the position is not handed over to him.


Sources in the political arena have estimated that a long time will pass before the attorney general makes up his mind.


'Hearing could change decision'

The police have said they have sufficient evidence for an indictment, but legal experts clarify that a police investigation which ends with a recommendation for a large-scale indictment doesn't guarantee that this is what will happen eventually.


"Past experience shows that the police recommendations is sometimes accepted and sometimes not. One cannot point to any formal procedure in which the police recommend and the attorney general accepts," says Prof. Ariel Bendor of Haifa University.


According to Bendor, the road to an indictment is long. "In the first stage, the attorney general checks whether there is room for filing charges. If he believes there is room, he must hold a hearing, and we know a hearing could change the decision."


Bendor claims that Israeli history proves that a police recommendation is not binding. "There were quite a few cases in which the police made a recommendation, but it's not their authority. They are not necessarily legalists, and this shows that it's not up to the police."


Dr. Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha'arei Mishpat Academic College, says that "first of all, the investigation must be completed as soon as possible. A delay of justice is not healthy both neither to Lieberman nor to the State of Israel.


"Although this is a complicated and intricate, there is no justification which spreads over such a long time. This is not just causing a delay of justice for Lieberman, but also casting a heavy shadow over the Israeli government."


Dr. Hacohen believes the attorney general is likely to accept the recommendation. "In light of the fact that the State Prosecutor's Office was in on the investigation the entire time, it's safe to assume that the attorney general is well familiar with the affair's details, and the police recommendation was not generated in a vacuum."


If Lieberman is in fact indicted, says Hacohen, he should suspend himself. "If a decision is made to charge him with severe offenses of money laundering and obtaining by fraud, Lieberman should suspend himself immediately," he concludes.


Tal Rabinovsky contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 07.15.09, 08:58
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