Israel's Lieberman hints he may quit if convicted

AP , Monday 14 Jan 2013

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said he will quit politics if convicted on corruption charges, a move which could have a big impact on this month's elections

Avigdor Lieberman
Israel's former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is escorted by border police and security guards during a visit to the West Bank city of Hebron January 14, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Israel's hard-line former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman indicated on Monday that he would quit politics if convicted in his breach of trust and fraud case.

Such a decision could shake up the Israeli political system, because Lieberman is the driving force behind his kingmaker party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

Lieberman is accused of trying to advance the career of a former diplomat who relayed information to him about a since-closed criminal investigation into his business dealings. He denies any wrongdoing.

Lieberman told Army Radio on Monday he agrees with a political ally's recent assertion that if convicted, he should not stay in politics.

"There have to be very clear norms," he said, but quickly added: "I am sure I will be cleared in the end."

Lieberman stepped down last month, shortly after the charges were filed, but remains in parliament and is expected to be re-elected to the legislature in next week's elections.

Under Israeli law, he would not necessarily be compelled to leave politics if convicted. Only if the court decides that the crime involves "moral turpitude," he would have to resign immediately from parliament and be barred from politics for seven years.

Lieberman told the radio station that the "moral turpitude" provision should not be the determining factor.

His party is running on a joint slate with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in the Jan. 22 elections.

No date has been set for the start of his trial.

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