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Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu coalition partner, charged with breach of trust

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister and Prime Minister Netanyahu's coalition partner, has been charged with breach of trust.

Avigdor lieberman breach of trust december 13 2012Enlarge
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was charged with fraud and breach of trust on December 13, 2012. He said he will not resign. The news comes ahead of elections to be held on January 22. (GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister and an important coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been charged with breach of trust.

The Justice Ministry said on Thursday that Lieberman will be indicted for fraud and breach of trust, according to Reuters

Lieberman was cleared of more serious offenses, including bribery and money-laundering, according to Al Jazeera.

The announcement comes as Israel is preparing for elections on Jan. 22, with Netanyahu's party Likud merged with Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu predicted to win.

Reuters noted that in the past Lieberman had denied all wrongdoing, and said he would resign if indicted. However, GlobalPost correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky reported from Jerusalem that Lieberman told the press on Thursday he would not resign over the fresh indictment, which he described as too small an issue for such a reaction.

The fraud and breach of trust charges against Lieberman relate to his promotion of an ambassador who had shared information about the money laundering case being built against him.

"After examining the file, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to charge him in the first case and have decided to close it," said Israeli prosecutor Yehuda Weinstein, according to Al Jazeera. "But on the case of the promotion of the ambassador, I have decided to charge him."

As The Daily Telegraph put it, "Prosecutors suspected he illicitly received money from businessmen and laundered it through straw companies, but they apparently decided they had insufficient evidence for a conviction."

GlobalPost's Tarnopolsky said that Lieberman's reaction to the charges is likely to impact the January elections.

"If Lieberman resigns, Netanyahu will be left with the residual stump of a party now irrevocably attached to his Likud, four weeks before elections. That could be awkward. If he doesn't resign, I predict the opposition parties will turn this into the only issue, and it could hijack this election. In which direction is anybody's guess," she said.

Tarnopolsky added, "I'm pretty certain the opposition parties will file immediate Supreme Court injunctions to try to force him out."

More on GlobalPost: Your guide to the Israeli elections (PHOTOS)

GlobalPost correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky contributed reporting to this article from Jerusalem, Israel.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/121213/avigdor-lieberman-charged-breach-trust