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Israeli foreign minister Lieberman resigns following indictment

JTA

December 14, 2012 | 9:14 am

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem on April 13, 2011. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem on April 13, 2011. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Avigdor Lieberman has resigned as Israel’s foreign minister following his indictment for fraud and breach of trust.

“I have committed no offense but I wish to put behind me this issue, which is what remains of many years of investigation,” Lieberman said in a statement Friday.

Lieberman said he would also step down as vice prime minister and lift his immunity from prosecution, to which he is entitled as a member of Knesset.

On Dec. 13, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein closed a 12-year investigation on Lieberman, dismissing most of the charges. But he indicted Lieberman for fraud and breach of trust for advancing former ambassador to Belarus Ze'ev Ben Aryeh's position in the Foreign Ministry allegedly in exchange for information about an investigation against Lieberman being conducted in Belarus. Last spring, Ben Aryeh confessed that he had received and passed documents to Lieberman in 2008.

In his statement, Lieberman added: “I am stepping down also because I believe the citizens of Israel deserve to go to the ballot box with this thing already settled, so I can resume serving the state of Israel and its citizens.”

According to Ynet, Lieberman does not plan to resign as number two of Halikud Beiteinu -- the merger of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and the movement headed by Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu.

Lieberman has said he wished for a “quick trial” but it is not known whether this could be concluded ahead of Israel’s general elections scheduled for January 22.

A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu spoke with Lieberman “and wished he [Lieberman] would soon prove his innocence in the sole remaining issue at hand and return before long to take up a senior cabinet post.”

Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said in a statement that Netanyahu’s words “left a bad taste” and reflected “poor judgement.” She called Netanyahu’s statement “an ignominious blessing.”

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