By Ian Deitch, Associated Press / December 14, 2012
Israel‘s powerful foreign minister announced his resignation from government Friday, a day after an indictment for breach of trust was filed against him by the country’s attorney general, in a move that shakes up the election campaign and heavily impacts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s election calculations.
Avigdor Lieberman continued to maintain his innocence in a statement and indicated that he could return to politics in time for the national elections in January if he was cleared or could reach a plea bargain.
“Even though I know I did not break any law … I have decided to resign from my position as foreign minister and deputy prime minister,” Mr. Lieberman said. “After 16 years of investigations against me I can end this issue quickly without delay and completely clear my name,” he said.
DEBKAfile December 14, 2012, 4:43 PM (GMT+02:00)
Although major financial charges against him were dropped by the attorney general, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Friday he was quitting as foreign minister and deputy prime minister over the minor charge still outstanding relating to the promotion of an ambassador suspected of tipping him off about a probe. Lieberman decided to quit, although he had received legal advice that the charge was not serious enough to force his resignation. He also relinquished his parliamentary immunity and requested a speedy trial so as to put behind him 16 years of probes and groundless suspicion and finally clear is name.
He steps down in the middle of the campaign for Israel’s general election in 40 days. His Israeli Beitenu party is running on the same ticket as Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud. A hands’-down victory is predicted by opinion polls for their joint list.
By Robert Tait, Jerusalem
4:48PM GMT 14 Dec 2012
One of the cameramen needed hospital treatment after the incident, which is said to have happened in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday evening.
The journalists, Yousri Al Jamal and Ma’amoun Wazwaz, who were both working for Reuters news agency, were driving to a check point where a Palestinian teenager had earlier been shot dead by an Israeli soldier when they were stopped by a military foot patrol.
The journalists say they were accused of working for B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group that monitors abuses in the West Bank, even though they were wearing flak jackets with “Press” emblazoned on the front and their vehicle bore “TV” markings.
The soldiers forced the men to leave the vehicle then punched them and struck them with rifle butts, Reuters reported.
The men said they were forced to strip to their underwear and made to kneel on the road with their hands behind their heads. Two other Palestinian journalists working for local news outlets were also stopped and forced to the ground.
Published December 14, 2012
RAMALLAH, West Bank – Hamas has staged new rallies in the West Bank, one day after thousands of its activists turned out for the first marches there by the militant group there in five years.
Friday’s marches in several cities appeared larger than Thursday’s demonstrations, the first in the Palestinian territory since the 2007 split in which Hamas seized Gaza and the secular-leaning Fatah was left in control of the West Bank.
The rivals have been making overtures toward each other since last month, when Hamas fought an eight-day conflict with Israel and the West Bank’s Western-backed president Mahmoud Abbas won U.N. recognition of a de facto Palestinian state.
Marchers chanted for Hamas to bomb Israel. Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, addressed crowds by phone — an unusual concession by Fatah.
JERUSALEM — Facing indictment for breach of trust and fraud, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned his post Friday afternoon amid mounting political pressure, upending the campaign landscape five weeks before national elections.
Mr. Lieberman, a powerful but polarizing figure, wrote on his Facebook page, “I know that I committed no crime,” but said he was stepping down so “I will be able to put an end to this matter swiftly and without delay and to clear my name completely.”
Mr. Lieberman, who is also a member of Parliament, indicated that he still hoped to compete in the Jan. 22 balloting, suggesting a possible plea bargain. The expected indictment, which prosecutors announced on Thursday, concerns a relatively minor offense compared with a broader case of money laundering and fraud that was dropped after an investigation stretching for more than 12 years.
“I believe that the citizens of the State of Israel are entitled to go to the polling stations after this matter has already been resolved,” Mr. Lieberman’s statement said. If a legal ruling could be made before the elections, “I might continue to serve the State of Israel and the citizens of Israel as part of a strong and united leadership that will cope with the security, political and economic challenges facing the State of Israel.”
Mr. Lieberman, 54, leads the secular, ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which last month joined forces with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. A populist immigrant from the former Soviet Union, he was widely considered as a potential successor to Mr. Netanyahu as leader of Israel’s right wing, though his hard line on the Palestinian question, among other issues, alienated many Western allies.
Published December 13, 2012
JERUSALEM – Israel’s powerful foreign minister resisted calls to resign Thursday after he was charged with breach of trust in a fraud and money-laundering case threatening to upend the Israeli political system just a month before parliamentary elections.
Avigdor Lieberman, who escaped more serious charges, said Thursday night that the law does not require him to resign. “According to my legal counsel, I do not have to resign, but at the end of the day I will make a final decision together with my lawyers,” he said at a news conference.
Lieberman, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave no timeframe for his decision and hinted it could come after parliamentary elections on Jan. 22. He also denied all accusations and alleged they were politically motivated.
The decision by Israel’s attorney general earlier Thursday capped an investigation that stretched back more than a decade and several politicians called on Lieberman to quit.
In a brief statement, Lieberman’s lawyers said they respected the Attorney General’s decision and would study it.
In a statement, Netanyahu appeared to rally behind his foreign minister. He congratulated Lieberman for fending off the “main accusations” and said the foreign minister was entitled to his day in court.
“I believe in the Israeli justice system and I respect it. The right it gives every citizen in Israel to defend himself is extended to Minister Lieberman and I hope he proves his innocence in the one issue remaining,” Netanyahu said.
Teenager who hurled Molotov cocktail at troops near checkpoint evacuated to local hospital with severe wounds after being shot in the chest
Elior Levy, Yoav Zitun
IDF soldiers opened fire on a 17-year-old Palestinian who apparently hurled a Molotov cocktail in their direction during clashes near the Hashoter checkpoint in Hebron Thursday evening. The Palestinian sustained severe injuries.
Palestinian sources said the youngster was hit in the chest and was evacuated to a local hospital in serious condition. The army said the soldiers operated according to standard IDF protocol for engaging a suspicious individual.
The clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops continued in Hebron on Thursday as tension in the region continued to mount over the death of a local teenager.
The 17-year-old Palestinian was shot dead on Wednesday by a Border Guard sergeant when he brandished a gun that later turned out to be fake. The incident occurred at a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The officer received threats to her life as photos of her circulated on social networks.
During the morning hours dozens of Palestinian youths in the West Bank city threw stones and bottles at troops, who responded with tear gas. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. Large Palestinian police forces arrived at the scene to restrain the rioters.
Thousands of Palestinians have joined the first mass rally organised by Hamas in the West Bank since 2007.
Demonstrators in the city of Nablus celebrated the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Islamist militant group, which governs the Gaza Strip.
It is the first time in five years that the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs in the West Bank, has granted Hamas permission to hold a rally.
The move is seen as a sign that ties are improving between the two sides.
A rift developed between the PA’s Fatah party and Hamas after the Islamist movement won legislative elections in 2006 and came to power in Gaza a year later.
But some observers say there have been indications that tensions between the rivals factions have eased in recent times, in particular after last month’s eight-day conflict between Hamas and Israel.
Last week, Fatah leaders attended a rally by Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, held during his first ever visit to Gaza.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed his indictment by Israel’s attorney general on Thursday evening, saying he will decide whether to resign according to the advice of my lawyers and according to the affect it will have on my voters.
DEBKAfile December 13, 2012, 2:14 PM (GMT+02:00)
A loud explosion was heard Thursday morning from the Philadelphi corridor linking the Gaza Strip to Sinai. A large plume of smoke was seen from the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Local witnesses report unusual Israeli air force activity over the area. No further details as yet.
A woman Border Guard sergeant stationed in Hebron shot dead a Palestinian whom she saw attacking a soldier under her command at a post near the Patriarchs Tomb Wednesday. The Palestinian knocked the soldier over and held what looked like a pistol to his head, whereupon the soldier’s female comrade shot the assailant dead. The investigation which followed found the gun was a metal dummy.
She later explained in a radio interview that she had split seconds to act in what was obviously a death-threatening situation for one of her subordinates and she acted as she was trained to do. Thursday, Palestinian websites ran the sergeant’s photo over the caption Arabic: “Wanted for international justice. We are asking her to be tried as a murderess at the Hague international court.”
DEBKAfile December 11, 2012, 8:26 AM (GMT+02:00)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asked where the Europeans were when Hamas leaders called for Israel’s destruction over the weekend. Why weren’t Palestinian envoys in their capitals summoned for explanations? Netanyahu: the Palestinians can avoid negotiations with Israel because the international community exacts no price for Palestinian “rejectionism.” He challenged as “not true” the EU ministers’ charge that building in the E1 corridor linking Maaleh Adummim to Jerusalem blocked the two-state solution.
The European ministers meeting in Brussels Monday night called for full implementation of existing EU legislations and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products from the West Bank and Golan.
They were “deeply dismayed by and strongly oppose Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, and in particular plans to develop the E1 area.”
DEBKAfile December 11, 2012, 7:38 PM (GMT+02:00)
Correction No. 1: An earlier version of this (NYT) article referred imprecisely to the effect of planned Israeli development in the area known as E1. It would not divide the West Bank in two. The proposed development would not, technically, make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
Correction No. 2: Because of an editing error, an article about Israel’s decision to move forward with planning in an area east of Jerusalem known as E1 described imprecisely the effect of such development on access to the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem. It would not completely separate those cities from Jerusalem.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis December 10, 2012, 8:52 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu turned his anger Sunday, Dec. 9, on Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal’s vow to cheering Gazans to “return to Jaffa, Haifa and Safed… Safed… Safed” (where Mahmoud Abbas was born) in a speech marking the 25th anniversary of the Palestinian Islamist group’s founding.
The Hamas leader swore to “free the land of Palestinian centimeter by centimeter, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north” with no concessions.
“Resistance is the basis for unity between the Palestinian factions,” he said.
Netanyahu criticized Abbas, as head of the Palestinian Authority for failing to condemn the extremist Hamas leader’s words – unrealistically, because Abbas must have privately applauded every word.
“The Palestinian president is striving for unity with the same Hamas that is supported by Iran,” said the prime minister. “We want true peace, but we will not make the same mistake of unilateral withdrawal as the one that brought Hamas to power in the Gaza Strip.”
This sort of rhetoric may account for Netanyahu’s lead in popular opinion polls, but there was one significant point in Meshaal’s inflammatory remarks that he omitted to mention: the boast that Hamas had dared where greater powers had held back, i.e., fired rockets against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
This was a sore point. It underlined the fact that last month, Israel ended its eight-day air offensive against Hamas without delivering the coup de grace for making the offensive an undisputed success or repairing Israel’s deterrence strength against its radical enemies.
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