Israel’s Kingmaker in Legal Limbo
Posted on Feb 12, 2009
With his party holding 15 seats in the Knesset, Avigdor Lieberman of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu is poised to pick Israel’s next government. Lieberman would like a choice cabinet post in exchange for anointing the next premier, but he’s under investigation for allegedly laundering millions of overseas dollars.
It may not be possible to appoint Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman as finance minister - a possibility that had been discussed during the coalition talks of the past two days - because the Tax Authority, which is part of the Finance Ministry, was involved in the criminal investigation against Lieberman.
The ongoing investigation already prevents him from heading either the public security or the justice ministry, since they oversee the police and the prosecution, respectively, and it would be improper for a minister under investigation to oversee the organizations responsible for deciding his case. The Finance Ministry, in contrast, would not normally be a problem, and sources involved in the coalition talks said that Lieberman did demand this portfolio, along with the Housing Ministry, in his talks with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. But the fact that the Tax Authority was also involved in the Lieberman probe may throw a monkey wrench into this idea.
State Dept. / Michael Gross, cropped