Legal proceedings involving Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will be expedited, his defense lawyer said Monday after meeting with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
Attorney Giora Aderet did not comment on discussions regarding a possible plea bargain for the foreign minister, who faces an impending indictment for fraud and breach of trust.
“We heard and proffered several options, but a decision has yet to be made,” Aderet said.
On Sunday, Liberman formally resigned from his ministerial position, while retaining his seat in the Knesset. The resignation takes formal effect on Tuesday.
“The intention is not to take a plea bargain, but rather to go to court,” he told reporters. But then Liberman back pedaled slightly and said, “I am not eliminating any options, but the intention first of all is to go to court.”
The Yisrael Beytenu party chief faces criminal charges for having received classified Justice Ministry documents, related to his investigation on fraud and money laundering charges, from the former ambassador to Belarus, Ze’ev Ben Aryeh. Liberman then allegedly sought to reward Ben Aryeh for helping him by having Ben Aryeh appointed to a second ambassadorship — an appointment that did not ultimately occur.
The attorney general decided on Thursday to close a far more substantial case against Liberman over alleged money laundering by shell companies throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s, citing lack of sufficient evidence to produce a conviction.
Maariv reported on Monday that the foreign minister favors a speedy trial or a plea bargain that will see him convicted, but not carry the “moral turpitude” designation that could force him out of politics for years.
If a plea bargain is not reached, legal proceedings will likely carry on well beyond the January 22 elections. Liberman could continue to serve as an MK, but could not serve as a minister during this period.
Liberman’s responsibilities as foreign minister will apparently be handled as of Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Friday said he hoped Liberman would quickly clear his name and return to take a senior ministerial position in the next government.
The foreign minister, for his part, has stated repeatedly that he wants his name cleared before the elections in January, in which his party is running on a joint list, Likud-Beytenu, alongside Netanyahu.
Though Likud-Beytenu has lost some traction in recent polls, it is still expected to become the largest faction in the next Knesset.