The state prosecution on Sunday formally indicted former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman on fraud and breach of trust charges.
The indictment includes new details that strengthen the case against Liberman, in which Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is expected to be the main witness.
If he is found guilty and the judges determine that moral turpitude was involved, Liberman, who heads the Yisrael Beytenu party, could be barred from holding public office for up to seven years.
According to the indictment, while Liberman served as foreign minister, he explicitly instructed Ayalon to push the Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee to name Ze’ev Ben Aryeh as ambassador to Latvia; Ayalon did not know Ben Aryeh personally.
Ben Aryeh, during a previous post as Israel’s ambassador to Belarus, had allegedly given Liberman documents related to a second, far more serious probe into the then-foreign minister’s affairs. That investigation was later dropped for lack of evidence.
Last week, amid reports that Ayalon had supplied damning new details against his former boss, police summoned Liberman for a 40-minute interrogation. On Thursday, it was announced that Ayalon had been added to the list of witnesses for the prosecution.
Liberman stepped down as foreign minister on December 14, after the state attorney announced his intention to file an indictment against him over what then appeared to be relatively minor allegations of breach of trust and fraud.
Ayalon was unceremoniously omitted from Yisrael Beytenu’s Knesset election roster in early December, though a reason was never made public.
The embattled head of the Yisrael Beytenu party has expressed hope that the case against him would be closed in time for the upcoming elections on January 22. However, the investigation’s resumption and the delay in filing the indictment seem certain to prevent Liberman from serving as a minister in at least the early period of the next government.
He remains in second slot on the joint Likud-Beytenu Knesset slate, and has indicated that he could serve as chairman of the powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee if unable to serve as a minister while the case continues.