JERUSALEM (Nov. 25)
Immediately after resigning as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-hand man, Avigdor Lieberman is facing a new set of problems.
Israeli police are recommending that Lieberman be charged with embezzlement and fraud because he failed to repay about one-quarter of a $31,000 loan he received several years ago from an immigrant support group.
Sources familiar with the investigation were quoted by the Israeli daily Ha’aretz as saying that the evidence against Lieberman was “borderline” and that State Prosecutor Edna Arbel would have to weigh whether there were sufficient grounds for an indictment.
Earlier this year, police recommended that Lieberman — along with Netanyahu and other top officials — be indicted in connection with improprieties surrounding the short-lived January appointment of Jerusalem lawyer Roni Bar-On as attorney general.
But Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein and Arbel decided not to prosecute either Lieberman or his boss, citing a lack of sufficient evidence.
Lieberman said Monday that he did not know of the latest police recommendation when he resigned a day earlier as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu also denied that he knew anything of the recommendation when he accepted the resignation of the person who had served as his top aide since 1988, the year Netanyahu was elected to the Knesset.
Lieberman, who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1979, angered many Likud Party stalwarts with what they considered his strong-arm tactics in support of the premier.
That anger boiled over earlier this month, when critics accused Lieberman of using Bolshevist techniques to control the recent Likud convention.
Lieberman is widely believed to have been behind a convention decision to cancel the party’s primaries, returning selection of Likud legislative candidates to the party’s central committee — which is stacked with Netanyahu supporters.
The controversial decision to cancel the primaries was described as undemocratic by several Likud ministers, Knesset members and party officials.
It also sparked moves by party rebels to take control of the party and, perhaps, support a no-confidence vote in the Netanyahu government.
The Israeli daily Ma’ariv compared Lieberman’s departure to the 1973 resignations of President Nixon’s aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman.
Netanyahu was “sacrificing his right-hand man” to “save his seat,” the paper said in an editorial.