Israel's Foreign Minister Questioned by Police

Israel's right-wing foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman was questioned by Israeli police for two hours Tuesday over suspicions he coerced an Israeli diplomat into handing over copies of secret police documents.

Those documents were part of a long running criminal investigation into Lieberman's financial affairs.

In August 2009 police recommended Lieberman be prosecuted for crimes including bribery, money laundering, fraud and obstructing justice. Israel's state prosecutor Moshe Lador said Tuesday that a decision on whether to prosecute the foreign minister was weeks away.

"The investigation began two and a half years ago, and the material is complicated," Lador said. "Only recently did we receive the material, in various languages, and I hope we will make a decision soon."

Police investigators now believe Lieberman received photocopies of secret documents from Ze'ev ben Aryeh the former Israeli ambassador to Belarus in 2008. Those documents requested help from local authorities in investigating Lieberman's business interests in the former Soviet republic.

The diplomat is suspected of then receiving favorable treatment from the foreign minister in return. Ben Aryeh is now serving as ambassador to Latvia and has also been interviewed by police. He reportedly admitted to opening the documents and divulging the contents to Lieberman.

Avigdor Lieberman is an outspoken and divisive politician. His Israel Our Home party was the surprise package in the last general election, becoming the third largest in the Knesset, or parliament. As such he became a key player in the intensive negotiations to form Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing coalition. In return for his faction's loyalty Lieberman demanded and got the plum job of foreign minister.

He is an outspoken mouthpiece of the hundreds and thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel in the 1990's. His party proposes controversial measures to deal with the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians including the forcible transfer of Arabs with Israeli citizenship.

Time To Go

The latest revelations about his alleged wrongdoings have persuaded some that time has come for his removal from office.

In the hugely influential and popular tabloid Yedioth Aharanoth, Nahum Barnea the doyen of Israeli columnists, wrote Wednesday: "Enough Already Lieberman: It would seem that the time has come to say to Foreign Minister Lieberman, with all due respect, with proper courtesy, please go."

Lieberman is the latest top ranking Israeli politician to be investigated for alleged corruption. The trial of former prime minister Ehud Olmert began last month. Among the accusations are the charge that Olmert accepted envelopes of cash from American businessman Morris Talansky.

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