Lieberman Decries Witchhunt Against Yisrael Beiteinu

YERUSHALAYIM -

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lashed out on Tuesday night at what he considers to be a politically-motivated police investigation of his party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

Addressing a gathering of party activists in the Shomron city of Ariel, Lieberman observed sarcastically that the election campaign had not started yet, but “as far as the police and 433 it is already at its height.”

The police’s Lahav 433 investigative unit has been spearheading corruption allegations against over 30 public officials, including senior members of Yisrael Beiteinu. The timing of publication of the affair by the police, just weeks before an election, has been pointed to as an indication of political motivation. Police officials deny this.

Lieberman said that Yisrael Beitenu was the victim of a witchhunt, but that he trusted that the authorities would come to the right conclusion in the end. Lieberman himself has not been implicated.

Responding to charges that his party has been shifting toward the center-left of the political spectrum in an attempt to bolster its support, Lieberman noted that whereas Likud ministers had been for disengagement from Gaza, Yisrael Beitenu MKs would never consider such a thing.

“When people say we’re left-wing, just remember who voted to evacuate Gaza and who gave away Chevron,” he said.

Lieberman criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu directly, as well, for his handling of Operation Protection Edge.

“The correct thing to do is not start a war if you’re not going to destroy Hamas. If you start, don’t stop until you succeed,” he said.

Political analyst Hanan Kristal told AP that any damage caused by the corruption allegations is expected to benefit Netanyahu, with voters likely to be pulled toward his right-wing Likud party, which has a similar nationalist ideology.

“Yisrael Beitenu’s imbroglio is Bibi’s good news,” he said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.

Meanwhile, the stop-Netanyahu sentiment was voiced by Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On, who expressed confidence that the “Netanyahu era” will come to an end on March 17, Election Day.

But looking for insurance on her prediction, she called on Labor’s Isaac Herzog, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon, and Lieberman, to pledge not to sit in a government led by Netanyahu.