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Ultra-rightist Avigdor Lieberman returns to Foreign Ministry after acquittal on fraud charges

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Lieberman and Netanyahu at a press conference, November, 2012. (Photo:  Olivier Fitoussi)

Lieberman and Netanyahu at a press conference, November, 2012. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi)

Avigdor Lieberman is back in action.  The pugnacious right-wing leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party was acquitted of fraud charges earlier today, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed him back into the government.

“I congratulate you on the unanimous acquittal and am happy about your return to the Israeli government so we can continue working together for the good of the people of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement. 

It marks a return to power for a man known for pushing “loyalty oaths” and plans to transfer Palestinian citizens of Israel into a new Palestinian state.

The Foreign Minister’s post has been vacant for the past ten months as Lieberman’s trial trudged along.  But now that he’s been cleared of charges, he’s set to take over the Foreign Ministry once again. Lieberman, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim and is a former aide to Netanyahu, will be sworn in next week.

Lieberman has been under investigation for the past 17 years due to shady relationships with foreign businessman, one of whom allegedly gave him millions of dollars through a company run by his daughter. But he was only indicted on a much lesser charge stemming from when a diplomat gave the Foreign Minister secret documents pertaining to a police investigation into Lieberman. Lieberman promoted the diplomat,  Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, to an adviser post. Aryeh was eventually forced to step down and spend four months doing community service.

While the Israeli judges unanimously ruled that Lieberman did not break the law, they did say that he acted improperly. The acquittal sparked charges that the Attorney General, bent on winning cases against corruption, failed miserably. 

Lieberman’s return to power will do no wonders for Israel’s international image.  The secular, Moldova-born figure who rose to power on the strength of Russian Israelis but has broadened his appeal to others is also the man who shows Israel’s ugly face.

He’s disdainful of the peace process that the U.S. is so desperately pushing.  He has voiced support for measures that would force Palestinian citizens to declare their “loyalty” to the Jewish state–or else lose their citizenship status. And the solution to the conflict Lieberman desires is one that would draw the borders of a Palestinian state in such a way that Palestinian Israelis would be forced to live there.

But despite Lieberman’s brash persona, he has rose to the top of Israeli politics. Last year, Yisrael Beiteinu merged with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party ahead of Israeli elections, though it didn’t do them much good as the right-wing national religious party HaBayit HaYehudi stole some of their thunder.

Now that Lieberman’s back in power, the question is whether he will angle for the Prime Minister’s job in due time. Whatever the case, Israeli hasbara will have to kick into high-gear to get the world to see past Lieberman.

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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30 Responses

  1. seafoid on November 6, 2013, 4:41 pm

    “He has voiced support for measures that would force Palestinian citizens to declare their “loyalty” to the Jewish state–or else lose their citizenship status”

    Did the Nazis not do something similar to their Jewish fellow Germans?
    I guess fraud in Zionism is all relative. The whole system is a big fraud.

    And hasn’t leftie Zionism really been wiped out by these freaks like Lieberman and Danon? The post 1977 education reforms have really come through, haven’t they?

    • EUR1069 on November 7, 2013, 1:01 pm

      “Did the Nazis not do something similar to their Jewish fellow Germans?”

      Oh, there is more than meets the eye in THAT department. Zionism walked out of the German experience with the worst possible lessons learned.

      The 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws copied the Zionist definition of Jews (casting the net wide), which is the cornerstone of the current Law of Return: one grandparent on either side, as opposed to the strict rabbinical requirement for a Jewish mother. This happened at the height of the Nazi collaboration with the international Zionist organizations in their common goal to get as many Jews out of Germany as possible. NB: Adolf Eichmann started his SS career as a liaison officer with the Zionist outlets, even traveling to Palestine on a fact-finding mission in 1937 & visiting kibbutzim. (No, 1960 wasn’t his first time in Jerusalem).

      A similar Law of Return is also in effect in today’s Germany with specific provisions for return & resettlement of ethnic Germans [Volksdeutsche], mainly from Russia who lived there for hundreds of years as descendants of German colonists mostly from Saxony who came during the reign Peter the Great & Catherine The Great. The return of Russian Germans peaked in the late 80’s – early 90’s flooding Germany with Russians with German last names but who otherwise had ZERO connection to the land, culture, customs, religion & didn’t speak German & generally were totally out of it. Sounds familiar?

  2. American on November 6, 2013, 5:47 pm

    seafoid says:
    November 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    “He has voiced support for measures that would force Palestinian citizens to declare their “loyalty” to the Jewish state–or else lose their citizenship status”>>>>

    Well for Palestines that are already Isr citizens that is just vengeful, belittling crap. ButI have no objection to nations requiring loyalty oaths for new citizens. I do believe that being given citizenship rights in a country does and should require some return obligation on the part of the person given the benefits of citizenship.
    Most countries do require this and the US always has and still does:

    Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America
    “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

    The language of the Oath is found in the Code of Federal Regulations Section 337.1 and is closely based upon the statutory elements in Section 337(a) of the INA.

    Of course taking the oath doesn’t mean they live up to it.

    • Qualtrough on November 6, 2013, 9:57 pm

      Sorry, I seemed to have missed the part where new US citizens have to swear their loyalty/allegiance to the Christian state.

      • American on November 7, 2013, 6:49 am

        @ Qualtrough:

        Er..?—-Do you see anything in the US Oath that says Christian state?
        Or white state or black state or whatever? It’s an oath to the ‘nation’ not a race or religion.
        I am talking about what most countries require for new citizens.
        Israel is another matter altogether.

    • seafoid on November 7, 2013, 3:56 am

      1948 Palestinians are not new citizens. Neither were German jews.

      Adelson would fail that oath as would Boehner and the commander in chief.

  3. piotr on November 6, 2013, 6:00 pm

    Prosecution of Lieberman was quite incomprehensible, extremely prolonged and inept, suggesting a compromise between two motivations: to punish him for corruption (either because he was corrupt or because he was such a jerk) and to absolve him (because he was a political ally).

    My impression is that the case reveals very low standards that Israel has for public servants whose families can get millions of dollars in payments from foreign shell companies with undisclosed owners for undisclosed reasons and this is OK if all officers of those companies refuse to offer explanations. At the very least, such irregularities should prevent Avigdor Lieberman from getting a security clearance (and allegedly, he was denied such a clearance) and again, having a Foreign Minister that cannot get security clearance is weird.

    So prosecutors decided to drop all the charges because of the lack of evidence leaving more Orthodox Israeli to grumble that what makes a difference between Orthodox fraud and Russian fraud is that Russian mafia is much better at playing shell games and intimidating witnesses. As a Russian sympathizer I would reply “tough noogies, this is meritocracy for you”. If you can’t even put together a Cypriot corporation that is own by Bahamanian corporations that has owners in Cayman Islands who are incorporated in Cyprus again, how can we expect that you are capable to be a Cabinet member? Wait until your teen daughter can do it even in her sleep and then we can talk again.

    On the bright side, Lieberman is fluent is several foreign languages and his accent in Russian makes him very easy to understand, and in English, almost easy.

    The most lamentable part of the court verdict is that it would benefit the public if Lieberman got a suspended sentence with some stiff conditions, primarily that any attempt to sing in public would result in incarceration (as breaking conditions of parole).

  4. Sumud on November 6, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Whatever the case, Israeli hasbara will have to kick into high-gear to get the world to see past Lieberman.

    Hasbara only works on children and the completely uninformed. Once an honest person starts to look into matters the whole scam that is zionism comes apart at the seams.

    No amount of propaganda is going to turn that around.

    • piotr on November 8, 2013, 3:04 am

      Given that the majority of population is completely uninformed (or seriously underinformed) it actually takes some effort to discredit persistently repeated propaganda. An ordinary honest person does not look deeply “into matters”. However, when the propaganda seriously contradicts personal experience it can break down, and repetition makes it only worse.

  5. Philip Munger on November 6, 2013, 9:11 pm

    So what will his role be in the ongoing, ahem, “peace process,” with SoS Kerry pushing to ramp things up? Is he not Kerry’s Israeli opposite number?

    • amigo on November 7, 2013, 6:52 am

      “So what will his role be in the ongoing, ahem, “peace process,” “Phillip Munger.

      He will be heading up the “Low Chair”dept.

  6. a blah chick on November 6, 2013, 9:54 pm

    I think every member of the ruling class should have his corruption trial as soon as he decides to run for office, that would save time.

  7. dbroncos on November 6, 2013, 9:59 pm

    If Lieberman is elected as Netanyahu’s successor Israel will sink further still. He’s an even bigger megalomaniacal creep than Netanyahu. Best of all, his looks will give Americans the creeps – his wandering eye and evil grin will do more damage to the “special relationship” than the settlement enterprise has ever done.

    • ziusudra on November 7, 2013, 2:43 am

      Greetings dbroncos,
      …if Lieberman is elected as Nitwit-yayuhuu’s successor Zionistan will sink further still…
      The Golem is dead! Long live the Golem.
      Italy had Savonorola,
      Germany had Goebbels,
      We had McCarty,
      Today everybody has AIPAC!

    • Taxi on November 7, 2013, 8:08 am

      I urge all israelis to elect Leiberman for next PM.

      He’s just so…. perfect.

      • American on November 7, 2013, 8:39 am

        Ha!….he would be perfect, certainly would speed up some kind of conclusion to this Isr mess.

      • MahaneYehude1 on November 7, 2013, 9:20 am

        @Taxi: I wish some day I can write “I urge all Lebanese to elect….for next PM”.

      • Taxi on November 8, 2013, 4:24 am

        You israeli guys and dolls have normalized ‘meddling in other people’s presidencies’, especially mine – except I wouldn’t just call it meddling, I’d call it ‘effing with’:
        “The political TV advertisement featuring Binyamin Netanyahu and the slogan “The world needs American strength, not apologies” is likely to fuel claims that the Israeli prime minister is interfering in the US presidential election in support of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.”

        So go ahead, knock yourself out, go tell the Lebanese and the Japanese who their PM should be. I don’t mind one single bit that you do.

      • seafoid on November 7, 2013, 9:37 am

        Someone to the right of Lieberman would be even better. Genghis Khan, someone like him.

      • German Lefty on November 7, 2013, 1:04 pm

        Haaretz has a great article on this issue:
        Israel deserves Lieberman as prime minister
        Let’s welcome back our next prime minister, who will expose Israel’s true face to the world.

      • yrn on November 8, 2013, 12:33 pm

        Loves the Israeli Press Maariv and Haaretz.
        Give him more info ………

  8. yrn on November 7, 2013, 8:42 am


    Leiberman is perfect maybe for you not for the Israelis.

    • Taxi on November 8, 2013, 4:55 am


      You known damn well that The Leib, with his unforgettable toothy smile, is just perfect for the whole damn world! You’re in the minority, deary.

      Israel has the absolute worst taste in political parties… and in architecture too, btw.

      • yrn on November 8, 2013, 12:35 pm


        You can have The Leiberman he fits your Agenda.
        More war and more war.

  9. Egbert on November 7, 2013, 9:56 am

    The look on Netanyahu’s face says it all!

    • Taxi on November 7, 2013, 10:01 am

      You call that a “face”? More like the back-end of a bus.

  10. EUR1069 on November 7, 2013, 1:09 pm

    Lieberman as a Minister of Foreign Affairs marked a new low for Israel: one of his predecessors, Aba Eban was an Oxford graduate. They now have a former bar bouncer from Kishinev.

  11. piotr on November 8, 2013, 2:38 am

    I have mixed feelings when Lieberman is called “former bar bouncer from Kishinev.” Perhaps it is personal: I do not have friends from Oxford, but I do have a friend from Kishinev. Currently, foreign policy of Israel is a disaster and it is in the hand of Benjamin Netanyahu who does not give great credit to MIT and Harvard where he was educated.

    The most recent mis-achievement is a part of a major moronic concept to place the Israel as a linchpin of a freedom defending alliance of the West, “Sunni powers” and Israel against terrorists and Shia hordes emanating and supported by Iran. Several months ago Western elites started to notice that the success of this project may be a terrible disaster: perhaps in Riyad “Emirate of Iraq and Syria” has a benign sound to it, but elsewhere it sounds dreadful. Saudis, the fellow linchpin of the putative alliance is irrational and untrustworthy, funding and arming quite crazy people (what want to create the Emirate I have mentioned), and pro-Israel neocon apparatus of think tanks and lobbying lost a lot of face by championing their cause. And their most public voice is who — Benjamin Netanyahu.

    When the project of creating an international crusade to liberate Syria from its vile non-Sunni rulers petered out, neo-con commentariat grumbled that this is a minor setback, since a fanatic Sunni emirate in Syria is not exactly in the best interests of Israel, but the true coming test is the issue of Iran. So the entity often disparaged as “the world” in Israeli press (as in “The world once more wrong on …”) was faced with the following pair of public figures: the wolf in sheep clothing (according to Israeli description) and the idiot in MIT graduation gown. And the verdict?

    For those of you who cannot read behind NYT paywall, I have to explain this paragraph: “But even as the two sides tried to finalize the agreement on Thursday, fissures have widened between the United States and some of its principal allies over the potential pact,”

    On one side we have USA and the most powerful allies, UK and France, presumably not opposed by other serious allies, Germany and Japan. On the other side we have Iran that has a certain degree of support from Russia and China. In that context the reference to “some of its principal allies” is almost hilarious: Israel and Saudi Arabia, valiantly supported by Bahrain, Qatar, United Emirates, Kuwait and Oman. Diplomatically, it is like Paraguay issuing ultimatums to Brazil and Argentina at the same time. Of course, Netanyahu already has issued a protesting statement.

    I do not know what are the true intentions of Obama, but given the domination of the Lobby in US politics, no progress in Middle East is possible unless Israel and the supporting lobby is seriously discredited. Right now they are doing better job at it than 100’s could do or 50 Mearsheimers.

    In the long run, it is hard to be both vile and clever. In the short run you can rely on very intelligent and charismatic personalities like Ariel Sharon. But in the long run you have to have some intellectual infrastructure of ideologues, political scientists, journalists, etc. etc., and decades of purging people for inconvenient ideas leaves an intellectual desert. Populated by people with degrees from very good universities.

    Recent studies have shown that you can convert a homo sapiens to a total idiot in spite of SAT of 1400 and Ivy League degree by bleaching the brain from common sense. In the same time, many people retain common sense and general intelligence after attending high school in Kishinev, university in Tel Aviv and having un-orthodox part time jobs during student years. Although Lieberman is not one of them.

    • Taxi on November 8, 2013, 5:20 am

      Good analysis poitr.

      But you may need to review your take on Oman’s support for an attack on Iran. It doesn’t belong on this, your list: ” In that context the reference to “some of its principal allies” is almost hilarious: Israel and Saudi Arabia, valiantly supported by Bahrain, Qatar, United Emirates, Kuwait and Oman.”

      The Sultanate of Oman has extremely close and historic relations with Iran, going back thousands of years, being just across the Persian Gulf from Iran, with much trade and intermarriages between the two countries. Oman has actually publicly declared “neutrality” regarding the Iran-Saudi crisis:

      Moreover, it was Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman, who was instrumental in the recent thaw between U.S.A. and Iran:

      By it’s many sound and peaceful foreign policies, the Sultanate of Oman has distinguished itself from the other oil-Arab kingdoms and sheikdoms.

      • piotr on November 8, 2013, 6:47 pm

        Good catch. Incidentally, Oman is not a Sunni state, the majority adheres to Ibadhi sect which shares some non-Sunni doctrines with Shia. Photos do not show any veiled women, so I think that there is a mutual disdain with Salafis/Wahhabi of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Oman is separated from Saudi Arabia by extremely inaccessible desert, while it is very close to Pakistan.

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