Politicians across the political spectrum welcomed Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's decision to resign from office in light of Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein's announcement to prosecute him on charges of fraud and breach of trust. Lieberman announced his decision over the weekend despite his defiant posture on the matter last Thursday.
Weinstein said the minister would be indicted on the suspicion that he promoted a senior diplomat who provided him with sensitive information about a police investigation against him.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that he hoped Lieberman would prove his innocence as quickly as possible and once again serve as a senior minister in the government. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu will serve as foreign minister himself until the next government is formed. Israeli law states that when a foreign minister resigns, so does his deputy foreign minister, and this can only be changed during a Knesset session. Since the Knesset has dispersed itself, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is not expected to keep his position. Liberman also left Ayalon off his party's Knesset list for the next elections, effectively firing him.
Lieberman's resignation will effectively cease to be the country's foreign minister 48 hours after he submits his letter of resignation, but his status as a member of Knesset will not be affected by his resignation as a government minister. He will continue to enjoy the immunity from prosecution that all MKs have until he submits a letter to the Knesset speaker and Knesset House Committee stating his agreement to relinquish his immunity, which would enable the state prosecution to submit his indictment to the court.
Weinstein's decision to indict Lieberman does not affect his candidacy on the joint Likud-Beytenu ticket for the upcoming election. After the elections, however, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be able to appoint Lieberman as a minister in the government as long as the trial in the case of his alleged illegal promotion of a senior diplomat is under way. After the trial, Lieberman would be able to serve as a minister only if the court does not give him a sentence involving imprisonment (even if prison time is exchanged for public service) and moral turpitude (which even without a prison sentence would disqualify him from public office).
Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said of Lieberman's resignation: "This is something that must have been done. Anyone who is indicted must not continue to hold office even for a single day as a public servant."
Yachimovich said she would not take part in any government in which a person who was indicted is also included and called upon all party leaders to boycott any such government in the future.
Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said: "Lieberman did what was right and necessary and we hope he will undergo an expedited trial."
Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, who petitioned the High Court of Justice on Friday to sack Lieberman due to his indictment, said: "[Lieberman's] decision prevented the turpitude and embarrassment that he may have had to face."