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December 17, 2012 11:33 am

Netanyahu to Serve as Israeli Foreign Minister, Replacing Lieberman

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Israel's Foreign Ministry Building. Photo: Zev Zamir.

Officials in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Netanyahu will serve as the country’s foreign minister himself until the next government is formed, replacing resigned foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israel Hayom reported.

Lieberman said Dec. 14 that he would resign following his indictment on fraud and breach of trust for allegedly promoting a diplomat who provided him with sensitive information about the police investigation against him.

Thursday’s indictment of the foreign minister, announced by Israeli Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, had ended a 12-year investigation.

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“I have committed no offense but I wish to put behind me this issue, which is what remains of many years of investigation,” Lieberman said in a statement Friday, according to reports.

Lieberman said he is stepping down “because I believe the citizens of Israel deserve to go to the ballot box with this thing already settled, so I can resume serving the state of Israel and its citizens.”

The attorney-general’s draft indictment of Lieberman, issued in April of last year, was much more damning than Thursday’s final announcement, involving allegations of money laundering through shell companies, harassment of a witness and more severe charges of fraud and breach of trust.

Weinstein decided to forego prosecution on most charges due to a lack of sufficient evidence. The watered-down indictment is limited to Lieberman’s alleged actions in 2009, when he allegedly had the government promote then ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, and have him appointed as Israel’s chief diplomat in Latvia. Lieberman is faulted for not disclosing that the latter had provided the minister with unauthorized information on the police investigation into his corruption case.

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