As the verdict in the trial of former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman on charges of corruption approaches on Wednesday, senior members of the government coalition were anticipating it with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, a guilty verdict, if accompanied by a finding of “moral turpitude” will mean Lieberman would be barred from holding office and have to surrender his seat in Knesset. The ramifications for his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, could be ruinous, and it could precipitate a realignment in the government coalition.
However, at least five cabinet ministers would not be plunged into prolonged grief over the prospect of Lieberman behind bars, since it would force Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to appoint a permanent replacement at the foreign ministry.
As of last count, Ministers Yuval Steinitz, Gilad Erdan, Silvan Shalom, Gideon Saar and Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin (all Likud) and Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beiteinu) are vying for the job, according to Haaretz.
Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Steinitz said this week in private conversation that Netanyahu has promised him the post. “In Likud there is no question at all that the post will be mine,” he said confidently.
Others are not so sure. Erdan, who is minister of communications and of the home front, is also considered close to Netanyahu. His supporters say they believe that the prime minister owes him “compensation” for being bypassed for the ambassadorship in Washington. Erdan had been offered the post, but Ron Dermer snatched it up before Erdan gave Netanyahu his answer.
Interior Minister Saar was forced to the Education Ministry in favor of Shay Piron (Yesh Atid). In recent months, Saar and Lieberman are reportedly friendlier, and some thought that Lieberman might crown Saar his successor in the Foreign Ministry.
Silvan Shalom, currently energy and water resources minister, has already served as foreign minister and so has the credentials to succeed Lieberman.
Elkin and Shamir are dark horses in this race, but time will tell.