Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Foreign Minister, resigns after being charged with breach of trust
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been forced to resign after prosecutors decided to charge him with breach of trust.
Avigdor Lieberman has also resigned as deputy prime minister, and said he would fight to clear his name of the charges.
The case against him relates to a financial scandal dating back more than a decade.
His resignation comes five weeks before Israel’s general election.
“Though I know I committed no crime… I have decided to resign my post as foreign minister and deputy prime minister,” Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement released by his office.
He also said he would waive his parliamentary immunity and suggested he hoped to settle the case before the elections, due on January 22nd, allowing him to stand as a candidate as planned.
“I am doing this because I am convinced that Israel’s citizens should be able to go to the polls after this matter has been settled… and I can continue to serve the state of Israel and Israel’s citizens as part of a strong united leadership,” Avigdor Lieberman said in the statement.
Avigdor Lieberman is the leader of Yisrael Beitenu, the second largest party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition government.
The two parties were due to run together in January’s general election, with polls suggesting they were on course to win before the charges against Avigdor Lieberman were announced.
Police had been investigating allegations of money laundering and bribery against Avigdor Lieberman, but prosecutors instead announced plans to charge him with the lesser offence of breach of trust.
That relates to him receiving confidential documents concerning the investigation against him from the former Israeli ambassador to Belarus, who he later promoted to another post.
The more serious charges of bribery and money laundering relate to allegations that Avigdor Lieberman received millions of dollars from businessmen with interests in Israel, and laundered the money through shell companies and bank accounts.
Israeli prosecutors said they had been forced to close the case due to a lack of evidence.
Avigdor Lieberman has denied any wrongdoing, and described the investigations as a witch hunt.
He is seen as one of Israel’s most outspoken politicians. Born in Moldova, he is one of the million Israelis who immigrated from the former Soviet Union.
Seen as to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman has been a harsh critic of the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas. He lives in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.