Liberman: PM should not resign even if indicted
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Liberman: PM should not resign even if indicted

Defense minister also tells Channel 2 that Israel won't initiate a new conflict, but won't ignore provocation from its enemies

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) and Prime  Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to the IDF West Bank Division, near the Israeli settlement of Beit El. January 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to the IDF West Bank Division, near the Israeli settlement of Beit El. January 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should not resign even if he is indicted over the alleged corruption for which he is being investigated.

Appearing on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” program, Liberman cited his own experience of being tried for corruption, when he resigned as foreign minister in 2012 and then returned to the post on 2013 when he was acquitted. But, he said, “it is not the same story for the prime minister.”

“Regarding the prime minister, it is absolutely not the same thing. The moment the prime minister resigns, there is political drama,” he said. “If he asked me, I would recommend that he stay on even if he were to be indicted, and manage the trial from his position as prime minister.”

Channel 2 said Friday evening that police believe the investigation into Netanyahu over expensive gifts he allegedly received from businessmen — known as Case 1000 — will last another 4-6 weeks and will lead to a recommendation to indict the Israeli leader.

Avigdor Liberman speaks to host Rina Matzliach on Channel 2 program 'Meet the Press' on February 11, 2017 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Avigdor Liberman speaks to host Rina Matzliach on Channel 2 program ‘Meet the Press’ on February 11, 2017 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Turning to the recent flare-up of tensions with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Liberman said Israel has no intention of initiating a new round of fighting with its enemies on the northern or southern borders, but warned that the country would not sit by in the face of provocation.

“I heard a lot of chatter from my fellow ministers, which has no bearing on defense policy of the State of Israel,” Liberman said. “We have no plans to initiate any military action — not in the south and not in the north, just as we have no intention of swallowing any provocation. Those in the north and the south know this well.”

The defense minister, who also heads the hawkish Yisrael Beytenu party, was referring to the Palestinian terror group Hamas on Israel’s southern border, and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror group to the north in Lebanon and Syria.

“We are acting responsibly and with determination; this is the correct policy,” Liberman said. Should Israel be pressed into a confrontation, he said, “We will go in at full force, will not leave a stone unturned in their entire infrastructure.”

Liberman also the speculation from fellow ministers about the timing of a potential new round of fighting in Gaza.

“I do not know where people get their dates,” he said, a likely reference to Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former IDF commander who this week told Army Radio that Israelis should prepare for another confrontation with Hamas in the coming months. “This is a ministerial chatter.”

Palestinians run for cover as smoke rises following an Israeli air strike on a Hamas post, in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED)
Palestinians run for cover as smoke rises following an Israeli air strike on a Hamas post, in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Liberman also criticized his fellow ministers for leaking details from an upcoming state comptroller’s report into how the security cabinet handled itself during the war in Gaza in 2014.

The report by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira is said to show bitter infighting among members of the security cabinet, especially then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and then-economy minister Naftali Bennett over the conduct of the war in Gaza, dubbed Operation Protective Edge.

Apparently taking aim at Bennett, now education minister, Liberman said that “anyone who leaks from a classified state comptroller document or from a cabinet meeting is doing something that is just not done. And certainly when the reason is political. It’s just not done.”

Bennett called last month for the Knesset to make the comptroller’s findings public.

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