JERUSALEM, Israel - Wednesday's announcement of the impending indictment of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had many questioning its potential to bring down the Netanyahu government.
Lieberman, for his part, said he had no intention of resigning from the "stable and responsible" coalition and he welcomed the long-awaited opportunity to prove his innocence.
In a draft indictment released Wednesday afternoon, State Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein charged Lieberman with breach of public trust, aggravated fraud, money laundering and harassing a witness. According to media reports, Weinstein decided to drop bribery charges because they would be too difficult to prove.
Lieberman learned of Weinstein's announcement moments before he was scheduled to address party members at a Yisrael Beiteinu conference at Jerusalem's International Convention Center. After a brief delay, he spoke at length about issues facing the country before closing with a "personal statement" on the attorney general's decision.
"I know and you know that I always acted according to the law and I have no reason to worry. After 15 years, I will finally have an opportunity to prove I acted lawfully and you know that for me, a promise is a promise," he told party members.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement affirming Lieberman's position in the cabinet and wishing him success in proving his innocence.
"Lieberman is a central member of the government, and I hope he will continue to contribute his public service," Netanyahu said. Other cabinet ministers also expressed their support.
"The initiation of legal proceedings against a public figure is always a sad act," MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said. "I hope to see Lieberman finish the proceedings innocent and clean of every suspicion," he said.
National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, both members of Yisrael Beiteinu, said they had no doubt as to their party chairman's innocence.
"Just as Lieberman heroically withstood the miscarriage of justice for [the past] 15 years, he will withstand the hearing and come out innocent," Misezhnikov said, calling him "the only Israeli leader people believe and listen to."
Landau said he too was sure of Lieberman's innocence and the party would continue functioning "as usual."
On and off investigations against Lieberman began in 1999. In 2006, former Attorney General Meni Mazuz ordered a new investigation, but two years later he dropped most of the charges. Weinstein's announcement came four months after he replaced Mazuz as attorney general.