Israeli police indicate that Avigdor Lieberman’s indictment is near. For months, rumors have swirled about charges of moneylaundering, influence peddling and outright corruption. Now the moment that many of us have been waiting for:
Police are close to submitting a recommendation to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on charges of fraud, money laundering, breach of trust and obstruction of justice, sources involved in the investigation said.
According to a police source the investigation is “practically over,” and the body of evidence is sufficient to support an indictment on the charges.
The Haaretz story fleshes out many of the charges against Lieberman:
…The indictment taking shape suggests Lieberman managed a well-oiled business machine through front men even after taking public office, and made millions of dollars. Lieberman and his associates are suspected of establishing several companies, some of them shell companies, in order to launder millions of shekels and funnel them into his own pockets. Police have investigated whether Lieberman continued running these alleged operations even after becoming a public official.
In addition, police believe Lieberman and his associates tried to obstruct the police investigation in at least three separate instances, by changing the names of companies he allegedly established in Cyprus after he suspected the police had identified them.
…Haaretz has learned that Lieberman earned more than NIS 2.5 million as a salaried employee of his daughter’s company from 2004-2006, when he was neither a Knesset member nor a cabinet minister. According to information obtained by Haaretz, between 2004 and 2007 the company headed by Michal Lieberman, M.L. 1, received NIS 11 million from anonymous sources overseas for “business consulting.”
Another Haaretz probe revealed that in 2001 an Austrian company owned by Jewish gambling tycoon Martin Schlaff transferred $650,000 to a Cypriot company, Trasimeno Trading, which police believe was controlled by Lieberman.
This is yet another tawdry episode documenting the corruption at the heart of Israeli politics (especially Israeli right-wing politics, viz. Olmert’s earlier indictment on similar charges). If the indictment happens, pressure will mount for Lieberman to resign. When (not if) he does so, Bibi will have an opportunity to reshape his governing coalition by possibly approaching Tzipi Livni to join his government. It remains to be seen whether either Bibi or Livni would want to do this. But if he did and she accepted, then there might be some possibility of forming a government that could actually reciprocate Obama administration entreaties for Israeli moderation regarding settlements and peace negotiations. But the likelihood of a Bibi approach to Tzipi, her acceptance, and an actual moderation of Israeli policy is very small.
And though we may lose Lieberman from the Israeli political scene, unfortunately there are a hundred more mediocrities just like him or worse lining up to take his place. The cesspoool that is Israeli politics can’t be cleaned up by the removal of a single corrupt individual, just as the right-wing political mafia can’t be dented by the toppling from power of a single individual, no matter how noxious he might be.
What I would welcome though about a Lieberman indictment is that it would send his ambition to be prime minister absolutely off the rails. Those of us who did not relish an out and out Kahanist taking the reins of government will be relieved at least in this small achievment .