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Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister and an important Netanyahu coalition partner, resigned ahead of elections.
JERUSALEM – Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, resigned on Friday, according to GlobalPost's correspondent in Israel, Noga Tarnopolsky.
Lieberman, an important coalition partner of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was charged with fraud and breach of trust on Thursday, in connection with a larger case.
He was cleared of the more serious charges of bribery and money-laundering.
Netanyahu's conservative party Likud had merged its Knesset list with Leiberman's right wing Yisrael Beiteinu to contest the upcoming elections on January 22.
According to Tarnopolsky, it seems Netanyahu and Lieberman came to the decision about his resignation together, deciding that it was electorally untenable. "With elections a month away, they could risk fighting historic precedent. No minister has ever continued to serve in Israel while being under indictment."
Tarnopolsky said, "Lieberman emphasizes that he has made his own decision, despite his lawyers' advice that he is not obligated to resign."
"Though I know I committed no crime ... I have decided to resign my post as foreign minister and deputy prime minister," said Lieberman in an emailed statement.
Tarnopolsky said that while pundits are sighing that this will only strengthen Lieberman, the reality is that he now faces serious charges, and will have to take on what the legal system has in store for him.
"It's true; Lieberman might wrangle a quickie plea that leaves him free to return to the ministry shortly after the elections. But it is no less true that that may not happen. Lieberman might face a judge in no mood for a plea bargain. He definitely faces a prosecutor's office which feels the need to prove itself against him, and may be angling for a trial."
She added, "For now, what's certain is that Netanyahu is running for re-election with a phantom No.2 man, angry Likud party members who are already skinning for the job, and the stump of Lieberman's party."
GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky contributed reporting from Jerusalem, Israel.