Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman was appointed temporary head of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (FADC) on Wednesday, over objections from Meretz leader Zahava Gal-on, who said she feared he’d use the position to intimidate witnesses in his upcoming trial.
“We face challenges that probably won’t wait for the formation of a coalition,” said Liberman after the appointment was approved.
In December the state prosecution indicted Liberman on breach of trust and fraud charges, prompting him to step down as foreign minister. Liberman is the head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, which ran on a joint ticket with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in the recent elections.
Gal-on said she objected to putting Liberman at the head of a committee that oversaw certain activities of the Foreign Ministry, some of whose employees were slated to testify against their former boss in trial.
She said such a situation could pose conflicts of interests and put Liberman in a position to “intimidate witnesses.” The committee’s legal adviser didn’t accept her stance, however, and the appointment was approved by a margin of 13-1 committee members, with only Gal-on voting against.
The appointment to head the committee is temporary, and Liberman may vacate the seat for someone else after a new government is sworn in. The helm of the FADC is considered one of the top nonministerial positions, and is usually held by a prominent member of the coalition.
Liberman can’t be named minister as long as legal proceedings against him are ongoing. He has stated that Netanyahu would hold the foreign minister portfolio for him until the conclusion of his trial.