Liberman says police probe a ‘personal vendetta’
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Liberman says police probe a ‘personal vendetta’

Yisrael Beytenu party leader says investigation into his faction’s members is the most political in Israel’s history

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Leader of the Yisrael Beytenu political party and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman speaks at a conference of Yisrael Beytenu activists in Ariel, on December 30, 2014. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/FLASH90)
Leader of the Yisrael Beytenu political party and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman speaks at a conference of Yisrael Beytenu activists in Ariel, on December 30, 2014. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/FLASH90)

Foreign Minister Avidgor Liberman on Tuesday launched a bitter verbal assault against the corruption investigation into members of his Yisrael Beytenu party and declared that it was motivated by a personal vendetta against him.

At an Yisrael Beytenu party gathering in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Liberman made it clear that he believed the motive for the probe was political, due to its timing ahead of the general election. He noted that he had been under several investigations by police throughout the years which had not led to criminal convictions.

“The fact that the case was announced two weeks after the Knesset was dissolved is strange in my opinion, to say the least,” he said of the probe in which several of his party’s members are suspected of being involved in a wide-scale corruption, bribery, and fraud scandal. “I would like to believe that it is just chance, but what can I do when I encounter such chance for the sixth time.”

“If anyone thinks I am hinting that we’re talking about vengefulness, of a personal vendetta, then [know] that is indeed what it is,” he said.

A year-long undercover corruption investigation became public last week when police arrested 31 suspects in the affair, which allegedly involves a large system of bribes to Yisrael Beytenu politicians in return for political favors.

Investigators suspect cash was inappropriately transferred to non-government organizations and various other groups. In return, the organizations allegedly made nepotistic appointments, as well as circulating some of the money back to public officials in the form of cash payoffs and benefits.

Many of the suspects in the affair are high-level members of Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, including Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum, who is a key suspect in the case along with her daughter Ranit.

“It is the most political investigation in the history of the state of Israel,” the minister said. “There was never an investigation like this…which was created to harm the party.”

Kirshenbaum was present at the meeting but would not comment on the proceedings against her.

“One day I will talk,” she said. “I will tell of my feelings when I can. I have a lot to say.”

Yisrael Beytenu party member and Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Faina Kirshenbaum attends a conference of Yisrael Beytenu activists in Ariel, on December 30, 2014. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/FLASH90)
Yisrael Beytenu party member and Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Faina Kirshenbaum attends a conference of Yisrael Beytenu activists in Ariel, on December 30, 2014. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/FLASH90)

Liberman also attacked his coalition partners in the Likud party, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying it was a party that talks, but doesn’t act.

However, Liberman stressed that he wanted a wide coalition in the coming government and that he would not discount any potential partners.

“I am not rejecting anyone,” he said. “It is important to understand that it is worthwhile to start talking about a wide government, a national unity government.”

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