Israel's Lieberman Resigns
by Stephen Lendman
Lieberman and Netanyahu represent the worst of extremist governance. They're hardcore racists. They're ideologically anti-democratic.
They believe Israel has a divine right to persecute, torture, commit naked aggression, and dominate the region unchallenged.
Their extremism might make some despots blush. They menace Israeli society, the region and beyond. They should be in prison, not high office. More on Lieberman below.
On December 14, he resigned as foreign minister and deputy prime minister. He vowed to clear his dirty name of all charges. Incriminating ones go back over a decade.
He resigned five weeks before general elections. More on this below as well.
Years of investigation suggested major charges would follow. Only little fish face them. Big ones walk away or get off lightly.
Investigations into his alleged criminal wrongdoing began in the 1990s. In 2006, major malfeasance ones began.
On August 2, 2009, police gave prosecutors clear evidence of fraud, accepting millions of dollars in bribe money, embezzlement, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. They recommended indictment.
Others agree he's corrupt. On May 24, 2010, Israeli police also recommended charging him with breach of trust. He improperly received classified information about his criminal investigation.
Earlier, on September 24, 2001, in Jerusalem District Court, he admitted attacking a 12-year old boy. The incident occurred in December 1999.
It was in Nokdim settlement. A young boy hit his son. He didn't harm him.
Charged with assaulting and threatening a minor, Lieberman was convicted. He copped a plea, paid a small fine, and avoided harsher punishment.
Several times he said he'd resign as foreign minister, deputy prime minister, and Israeli Beiteinu party (Israel Our Home) leader. He'd only do it after a hearing if he agreed to one.
In spring 2011, reports suggested imminent graft charges. Police investigations and intelligence division head Yoav Segalovich recommended indictment.
His case continued for over 18 months. Segalovich wanted him charged with bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, witness harassment, and obstruction of justice.
Police claimed he got over ten million New Israeli Shekels (NIS) in bribes from Martin Schlaff, Michael Chernoy, and other businessmen. He laundered the money through shell companies and fictitious overseas bank accounts.
Police also wanted him charged with breach of trust. It related to Israel's former Belarus ambassador, Ze'ev Ben Aryeh. He showed him secret documents pertaining to his own potential indictment.
They contained evidence against him. Lieberman secured his appointment in return for services rendered.
At the time, negotiations with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein sought to get bribery accusations dropped. Money laundering carries 10 years in prison.
Conviction on all charges assures many more. For one of Israel's worst, life without parole would be too lenient.
On December 13, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said investigations into charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering, breach of trust, harassing witnesses, and perhaps other criminality ended.
Major accusations were dropped. Fraud and breach of trust remained. Lieberman's a serial felon. Clear evidence exists. Weinstein claimed otherwise.
At the same time, he said "suspicions against Lieberman's series of intricate and intertwined, underhanded actions cannot be ruled out."
Suspicions after years of investigations assure new charges won't follow. Lieberman is largely off the hook. No Israeli except Netanyahu is less deserving.
Lieberman denied wrongdoing. What else would he say? He charged police and prosecutors with witch-hunt justice. He vowed to clear his name.
Reports suggest he'll seek plea bargain leniency. It won't be the first time. His decision followed legal advice.
He wasn't forced to resign. He did so ahead of upcoming elections. Convicted felons don't help their party or coalition partner.
He'll seek reelection, nonetheless. "I believe that the citizens of the State of Israel are entitled to go to the polling stations after this matter is resolved," he said.
"I might continue to serve the State of Israel and the citizens of Israel as part of a strong and united leadership that will cope with the security, political and economic challenges" ahead.
On Friday, he said:
"I know I committed no crime."
"I decided to resign from my post as foreign minister and deputy prime minister."
"I will now be able to end this matter quickly and without delays, and finally clear my name."
He's been hounded for years, he added. "Not a day passed without me being referred to as 'a suspect,' 'being under investigation,' (or) 'being an intelligence target.' "
"This has been one long and rolling case, receiving a different title every now and then."
Netanyahu had no comment on Friday. Hours ahead of Weinstein's decision, he said:
"I believe in Israel’s legal system and respect it. The right that it grants any Israeli citizen to defend himself also extends to Minister Lieberman, and I hope for him that he’ll be able to prove that he’s also innocent regarding the only case that remains."
He likely knew what was coming but hinted nothing.
Under Israeli law, when a cabinet minister resigns, the prime minister becomes "custodian" of his portfolio until a replacement is appointed.
Ahead of January 22 elections, expect Netanyahu to handle foreign affairs until they're concluded.
What's ahead for Lieberman remains to be seen. He's an embarrassment to legitimate governance. He's an ultranationalist extremist.
He, Netanyahu, and likeminded extremists represent the lunatic fringe of Israeli politics.
In his youth, Lieberman was a Kach party member. He remains true to its ideological roots. The difference between Kach and Yisrael Beiteinu are miniscule.
Meir Kahane headed Israel's Kach Party. In 1988, Israel banned it. It was too extreme to tolerate. It institutionalized the worst form of racist hate, nationalist extremism, and bloodthirstiness.
Hebrew University Professor Zeev Sternhell once called Lieberman "perhaps the most dangerous politician in the history of the state of Israel."
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, described him as "outrageous, abominable, hate-filled, (and) brimming with incitement that, if left unchecked, could lead Israel to the gates of hell."
David A. Harris, the American Jewish Committee's Executive Director, said he "define(s) an entire class of Israelis as suspected traitors."
"An unnamed Meretz party member said "If you liked Mussolini, if you were missing Stalin, you'll love Lieberman."
Gideon Levy equated Lieberman with Kahane. What was once "ostracized is now acceptable." It reflects "the slippery slope down which Israeli society has skidded over the past two decades."
Even ultra-Zionist US publisher Martin Peretz called him "neo-fascist….a certified gangster….the Israeli equivalent of (Austrian politician) Jorg Haider."
In 2000, Israel barred him from Israel for his hard-right views. He publicly supported Nazism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.
Lieberman spurns basic ethics, morality, rule of law principles and democratic values. He's bad news for Israel, Palestine and humanity.
In 1958, he was born Evet Lvovich Lieberman in Moldova (a former Soviet Republic). He once worked as a nightclub bouncer.
In 1978, he moved to Israel with his parents. After IDF service, his political career began.
In the 1980s, he helped found the Zionist Forum for Soviet Jewry. He was also a Board of the Jerusalem Economic Corporation member and Secretary of the Jerusalem branch of Israel's "national workers union," the Histadrut Ovdim Le'umit.
From 1993 - 1997, he was Director General for the Likud party. At the same time, he was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief of staff during his first term.
In 1999, he established the far-right, ultranationalist Israel Beiteinu Party (Israel is Our Home). He became a MK. He's also held other positions.
They included Minister of National Infrastructure, Minister of Transportation, and, until resigning December 14, foreign minister and deputy prime minister.
He once called peace with Palestinians unattainable. He stressed "not next year and not for the next generation."
"Our proposal," he said, "is: No to unilateral concessions, no to continuing the settlement freeze, yes to serious negotiations, and mutual gestures of good faith."
He offers none of his own. He stresses Israel "should prepare for war and be strong." He wants Greater Israel Arab-free. He leaves nothing too extreme off the table to achieve it.
Earlier he called for hanging all Arab MKs for treason. He urged destroying Palestinian society.
He said "(I)t would be better to drown (Palestinian) prisoners in the Dead Sea if possible, since that's the lowest point in the world."
As transportation minister at the time, he expressed willingness to supply buses to expedite the mission.
He believes "pandering" to international opinion is weakness, not strength.
Palestinian supporters call him the racist right's most prominent spokesman. With him in high office, Arabs face horrific persecution, ultimate expulsion, and possible extermination.
A Final Comment
On December 14, Haaretz
criticized Weinstein going soft on Lieberman. "Heads must roll," it headlined. Law enforcement "badly shot itself in the foot."
MK Lieberman was indicted on minor charges, "not the deputy prime minister or the foreign minister."
"The place for a (criminally indicted) minister….is not in the cabinet." It's not in any position of authority, great or minor.
Civil servants charged with criminal offenses would be sacked or otherwise forced to resign. "This rule must apply to elected officials as well."
Lieberman's legal fate remains to be determined. At worst, he'll receive minor punishment.
April 2011 headlines said his indictment for money laundering and other major crimes was imminent. "Weinstein failed to explain (why he) changed his mind."
Serious "soul-searching" is needed. Weinstein "must take personal responsibility." His style law enforcement is unconscionable.
Haaretz barely stopped short of demanding his resignation. Letting Lieberman off the hook makes him criminally complicit.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.