Ruling in State vs. Lieberman to be delivered Wednesday

Former Foreign Minister to face court ruling Wednesday regarding his involvement in deceit, breach of trust; ruling has potential to severely shake Israeli politics

The political system is holding its collective breath: The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court is scheduled to sentence on Wednesday former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is charged with deceit and breach of trust regarding the affair of the appointment of former ambassador Zeev Ben Aryeh.


Lieberman is accused of having appointed Ben Aryeh to the post of a councilor in the Foreign Ministry and not preventing and even actively promoting Ben Aryeh's appointment to the post of Israeli ambassador in Latvia in 2009, all while being aware that Ben Aryeh, who served as ambassador in Belarus, illegally gave Lieberman official information regarding an investigation Belarus was conducting against Lieberman.


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The trial included testimonies by Ben Aryeh, former Foreign Ministry Inspector Victor Harel, Ambassadors Shimon Roded and Yossi Gal, and former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.


Lieberman in court (Photo: Ohad Zwingenberg) (Photo: Ohad Zwingerberg)
Lieberman in court (Photo: Ohad Zwingenberg)


The prosecution based a worsening of the indictment on Ayalon, as he claimed Lieberman ordered him and other members in the Foreign Ministry to work towards appointing Ben Aryeh.


The judges' ruling will be hinged on whether or not Lieberman was aware the information he was receiving was illegal at the time of receiving it. Prosecution argued that Lieberman was aware of matters while working towards appointing Ben Aryeh to ambassador, and that he could not have forgotten such a serious incident within a few months. In that case, the prosecution claimed, a conviction is needed even without Ayalon's testimony.


Awaiting court ruling

Lieberman and his lawyers noted that the former minister thought Ben Aryeh was just giving him information regarding a rumor and that he did not know the information was official, and therefore didn't make anything of it. Lieberman also claimed that he did not even remember the incident, only remembering when police started investigation, and that there was nothing wrong with the appointment.


The head of Yisrael Beiteinu also claimed that he never asked Danny Ayalon to appoint Ben Aryeh, and that Ben Aryeh was the most worthy candidate. Ben Aryeh reportedly changed versions throughout his testimony.


An acquittal for Lieberman will give him immediate return to serve in any public role; this is the case even if he is convicted without infamy. A conviction with infamy behooves him to resign immediately from the Knesset till next election. If he is sentenced to three months or more in prison, he will have to wait seven years before being able to run for Knesset again.


As for the role of a minister, the law rules that infamy and any time in prison means a seven year dismissal from any ministerial role. In the case of infamy without imprisonment, Lieberman will also not be able to become minister, due to being barred from the Knesset. A theoretical situation exists in which the prime minister will appoint Lieberman externally without him serving as a Knesset member, but such problematic appointment is doomed to reach the Supreme Court, which is likely to cancel it.


On the eve of the decision, both sides are secure in their version. Either way, both sides are expected to appeal if they lose. The matter of infamy will be decided during sentencing at another time and the parties will address it during the plea stage.


The political echelon is purportedly anxiously awaiting the court's ruling. The political leadership is well aware that whatever the decision may be – matters will change following it. A total acquittal will bring Lieberman back to the Foreign Ministry; but his conviction could be the starting shot to political turbulence, the lightest of which could be his resigning, and the heaviest of which could be the departure of Yisrael Beiteinu from the coalition.


An acquittal will give Lieberman political strength that will bring him back to the front of the stage full force. Lieberman has been keeping a low profile lately, cautious of causing any political unrest. If he is acquitted, he could become available to truly meaningful political moves, such as winning over the right-wing public again and leading an aggressive policy with the Palestinian Authority, Turkey, and any other country Lieberman himself defines as hostile to Israel.


Attila Somfalvi contributed to this article



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פרסום ראשון: 11.06.13, 01:02
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