In the small courtroom 216 in Jerusalem one of the most powerful and bellicose Israeli politicians Avigdor Lieberman is fighting to prove his innocence, and thereby for his political life and possibly to avoid prison. Mr Lieberman faces charges of fraud and breach of trust, which he denies. Controversy has followed the former foreign minister Lieberman throughout his political career, whether for his extreme hawkish opinions or the cloud of suspicion of corruption. For nearly a decade Liberman’s business affairs and political deals occupied much of the Israeli police’s time. In the past the police recommended charging him and his aides with several counts of corruption including laundering money, using front companies in Cyprus, obstruction of justice, and the most recent of fraud and breach of trust. Only a dithering Attorney General prevented pursuing prosecution in the past.
Exploiting societal divisions
The story of Avigdor Lieberman is also the story of Israel’s extremely complex society and political body which enables opportunistic politicians to take center stage exploiting the divisions within the society and in the process lining their own pockets.Yossi Mekelberg
His rise to political power relied heavily on two pillars – his extreme anti-Arab attitude, perceived by many as racist or even fascist, and his mobilising of support from immigrants, who arrived in big numbers, from the former Soviet Union after the end of the Cold War. His anti-Arab policies and language appealed to those who harbour strong anti-Arab sentiments within the Israeli society. Part of his ‘peace plan’ with the Palestinians suggested population and territory exchange which amounts to, shamefully, forcing Arab-Israeli Palestinians to be stripped of their citizenship. Lieberman has also pushed legislation, which in the end failed, requiring all Israelis to sign a loyalty oath to the Jewish state or have their citizenship revoked, knowing very well the dilemma of Israeli Arab citizens to sign such an oath. In one of his calculated outbursts in the Knesset he called the Arab legislators, who met with Hamas leaders, collaborators whose fate “… will be identical to that of those who collaborated with the Nazis. Collaborators, as well as criminals, were executed after the Nuremberg trials at the end of the World War Two. I hope that will be the fate of collaborators in this house.” Furthermore his non-compromising stance vis-a-vis Turkey is well documented and contributed to the crisis between the two countries. Living in the settlement of Nokdim has given him credentials among those who oppose withdrawing from the occupied territories.