Israel's Foreign Minister resigns
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation Friday afternoon, following the attorney general's decision to indict him on charges of fraud and breach of trust.
"Although I didn't commit any felony and there is no obligation for me to resign...out of my wishes that after so many years of legal proceedings against me, I want to be able to put this affair behind me as soon as possible," Lieberman said in a statement.
"Therefore I have decided to resign from my post as foreign minister and ask the Knesset (Israeli parliament) to immediately remove my immunity so I could clear my name and face from these charges quickly," Lieberman said.
The foreign minister, who on Thursday evening denied his intention to quit amid the pending indictment against him, said he changed his mind after he consulted with his lawyers and members of his election campaign.
His statement also specified that the resignation will have no bearing on Israel Beytenu's election campaign for the Jan. 22 elections.
Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced Thursday afternoon that he will indict Lieberman over an affair in 2008 in which he promoted former ambassador to Belarus, Ze'ev Ben-Arye, in exchange for confidential information from the latter regarding police interrogation against him in Belarus.
At the same time, Weinstein announced closing the major case against Lieberman on charges of money laundering, bribery and fraud, after a 12-year investigation.
Lieberman was suspected of receiving millions of dollars from private businessmen via straw companies while presiding in public offices.
The attorney general explained that he closed the major case due to the fact that the evidence could be interpreted in other ways and there is a lack of witnesses willing or able to testify against him.
The Israeli law states that if a sitting cabinet member is indicted for a serious offense, he or she must resign or be dismissed, but the definition is very loose to interpret.
In case Lieberman is convicted or admits to a plea bargain, his sentencing, including the decision whether to endow him with moral turpitude, will determine his political career.
Lieberman has been in the eye of the storm amid a diplomatic blitz, following the Israeli decision to build 3,000 housing units in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the E1 area connecting them.
He has made harsh statements this week about the European Union 's condemnation of the settlements, comparing the EU's attitude to that of European countries who disregarded the Jewish holocaust back in World War II.
His statements were attacked by both EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Israeli left-wing politicians like Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich, who called the remarks "wild and extreme." (Xinhua-ANI)