08/03/2009, 00.00
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Major charges against Lieberman puts Netanyahu government in jeopardy

by Joshua Lapide
Israel’s foreign minister is charged with graft, money laundering, obstruction of justice, witness harassment and ties with the Russian mafia. He calls police action a “campaign of persecution.” If charges are laid Prime Minister Netanyahu will have to rethink his alliance with ultranationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu, which is against dialogue with Palestinians.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israeli police yesterday recommended the indictment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, on several charges, including money-laundering, graft, obstruction of justice and harassing a witness.

Mr Liebermann issued a formal response saying that “for the past 13 years the police have been on a campaign against me, and the more my political power and that of Yisrael Beiteinu increased, the more intense have been their efforts to remove me from public work.”

Avidgor Lieberman, 51, leads ultranationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), the second-largest party in the government coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the third-largest party in parliament after last February’s elections.

The foreign minister denies any wrongdoing and claims the police investigation was politically motivated.

Police said instead that they had enough evidence to bring forth formal charges against Mr Lieberman, and his attorney, Yoav Many.

Both are suspected of setting up a chain of front companies and bank accounts that allowed Lieberman to take in more than 10 million New Israel Shekels (US$ 2.5 million). He is also suspected of ties with the Russian mafia.

The police made their recommendation to the State Prosecutor’s Office and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

Lieberman expressed the hope that the attorney general would “behave fairly, without political motives or prejudices.

If the attorney general accepts the police recommendation to indict Lieberman, the government will feel the effects and Prime Minister Netanyahu will have to reshuffle his cabinet.

Yisrael Beitenu and Lieberman are known for their hard line position towards the peace process and the Palestinians. He has also accused Israeli Arabs of treason.

Yisrael Beitenu’s and Lieberman’s presence in government are one of the obstacles on the road map and the “two-state” solution.

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