Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman may have had to step down as foreign minister following his criminal indictment, but he has no intention of relinquishing the foreign affairs portfolio, a close associate told Yedioth Ahronoth Tuesday.
When he announced his resignation, Lieberman said that he was sure he would be found innocent of all charges against him and will be able to resume his position in the government.
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Yisrael Beiteinu's chairman is facing fraud and breach of trust charges. The State is also likely to pursue a moral turpitude conviction, which – if obtained – will make it virtually impossible for Lieberman to serve in public office.
As the coalition negotiation gains speed and rumors swirl that Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid may be offered the Foreign Portfolio – one of the government's top three offices alongside the Treasury and the Defense Ministry – sources privy to the political deals struck between the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, said that the latter will retain control of the Foreign Ministry.
Netanyahu and Lieberman (Photo: EPA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to clear the way for Lieberman to serve as foreign minister in the new government, a close associate of Lieberman's told the newspaper.
Lieberman was promised that Yisrael Beiteinu would be able to choose one of the top three ministries after the elections, and according to sources in both parties, that understanding was the basis of the agreements which saw the parties run under a joint ticket in the elections.
Netanyahu, a senior Yisrael Beiteinu source insisted, has no intention of offering the foreign affairs portfolio to any of his potential coalition partners.
Still, Lieberman himself said after the election that "I have no claim to the Foreign Ministry – it's not set in stone."
Political analysts suggested that he might be named as chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in which case he may be willing to forego the role of foreign minister.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu is expected to act as foreign minister pending the Lieberman trial's adjudication – unless Lieberman prefers to temporarily entrust the ministry to one of Yisrael Beiteinu's MKs.
Meanwhile, sources close to the coalition negotiations hedged that senior Likud MK and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon is the frontrunner for the role of defense minister.
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