Lieberman indictment no threat to Israeli coalition

AFP , Thursday 14 Apr 2011

Analysts say that the Netanyahu coalition would survive the potential indictment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Photo:AP)

The potential indictment of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is unlikely to shake Israel's governing coalition, analysts and his legal team said Thursday.

Israel's attorney-general on Wednesday said he was considering indicting Lieberman on a raft of charges, including fraud, money laundering and tampering with a witness.

Lieberman head's the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu Party, which has 15 seats in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government. If he resigned and chose to withdraw his party, the fragile ruling coalition would collapse.

But analysts and political figures said Lieberman had no intention of bringing down the government, and cautioned Wednesday's announcement was only the beginning of what is expected to be a lengthy legal process.

Lieberman's lawyer Yaron Kosteliz told Israeli public radio Thursday that his client had "no intention of resigning" at this stage, though he would be required to step down if eventually charged.

Before any final indictment is submitted, Lieberman will meet with the attorney-general to respond to the potential charges.

But Kosteliz said he was seeking at least six months to study the evidence against his client before meeting the attorney-general, who could take another six months after the talks to issue any final charges.

"Netanyahu can remain calm for the time being," wrote political commentator Maya Bengal in Maariv newspaper. "Netanyahu has his stable coalition for the next six months at least."

Other commentators agreed, with Yedioth Ahronoth's Sima Kadmon noting the most politically explosive charge Lieberman could have faced — bribery — was not mentioned in the draft indictment.

"In the absence of the bribe-taking offence, which was the core of the matter, the whole story looks like something that Lieberman will survive, that Netanyahu's government will survive and that the political establishment will digest," she wrote.

For his part, Lieberman expressed full confidence that Israel's typically fractious government would survive.

"We don't need to amuse ourselves with the idea that this government can be brought down, that it can be replaced with another coalition ... this coalition is stable and responsible," he said Wednesday.

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