Less than a day after insisting that he would not step down as Israel's Foreign Minister in the face of indictments for fraud and breaches of public trust, Avigdor Lieberman has resigned. A statement from the extreme right-winger said that he had left his ministerial post as well as his position as deputy prime minister even though he knows that he "has committed no crime" and despite his lawyer insisting that he did not have to resign in such a case. Lieberman said that he hopes that he will be cleared of all charges before the January General Election.
By taking this step, claimed Lieberman, he is giving Israelis a clear signal about what he believes are false charges. Waiving his parliamentary immunity by resigning will, he added, enable the case to be cleared up quickly before electioneering begins in earnest.
The head of the left-wing Meretz Party, Zehava Galon, filed a petition to Israel's Supreme Court demanding the Foreign Minister's resignation before the news broke that Lieberman had stepped down.
Although Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein announced that he is to close the main corruption case against Lieberman, he went ahead with the lesser charges.
Investigations into Lieberman's activities began in 2001 and spanned nine countries. The most serious allegations included money laundering and bribery. The Attorney General said there was no chance of a conviction on the more serious charges – yet.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his outspoken political partner, and said that he hoped that he would prove his innocence.
Avigdor Lieberman is not the first senior Israeli politician to face corruption charges. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned in 2008 after being indicted for corruption, although he has since been acquitted of most of the charges.