JERUSALEM ““ Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, under indictment for fraud and breach of trust, said he would resign from politics if he is convicted.
Liberman, who remains head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and is No. 2 on the combined Knesset list of his party and Likud behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the January 22 elections, said in an Army Radio interview on Monday that he would step down even though it is not required by law.
He would have to resign if a conviction includes moral turpitude.
Liberman resigned as foreign minister at the end of December, shortly before his indictment on the charges of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly advancing the position of Zeev Ben Aryeh, Israel’s former ambassador to Belarus, in exchange for information on an investigation against him. The charges came after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein closed a 12-year probe of Liberman in other cases on December 13.
Liberman’s statement that he would resign if convicted follows statements last week by his party’s No. 2, Yair Shamir, son of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, that Liberman should resign if he were to be found guilty.
“A public official who faltered while in public service must make way for those who have not,” said Shamir, formerly an executive with El Al. “Whether the offense carries the designation of moral turpitude or not is irrelevant.”
“I agree with him,” Liberman said on Army Radio. “I think that there have to be clear norms. Even if there is no moral turpitude, I will not continue in politics. There must be clear norms.”
He added that Shamir will not be penalized for his comments.
“I have no problems with what Shamir said, and Shamir will without any doubt have a senior role in the Likud Beiteinu government,” Liberman said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon reportedly is the state’s key witness in the Ben Aryeh case, and reportedly will testify against Liberman during the trial. Shortly before the indictment was formally issued, Liberman announced that Ayalon would not be included on the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset list for the January elections. Ayalon stayed on at the Foreign Ministry even though Liberman stepped down.
JTA Wire Service