FM Lieberman Steps Down to Clear his Name

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stepped down from his position Friday, following the attorney general's long-awaited decision to indict him for breach of trust.

Lieberman has been under investigation for years, but the attorney general closed a second case for lack of sufficient evidence. In a pre-trial hearing last February, Lieberman's attorneys challenged the allegations.

Last April, Weinstein issued a draft indictment, which some say amounts to misdemeanors, less than six weeks before elections. The attorney general must now submit his legal opinion on the allegations against Lieberman.

Following Weinstein's announcement, Lieberman immediately asked the Knesset to lift his parliamentary immunity so he can confront the charges without delay.

"Today, I held meetings with my attorneys and members of the election campaign. Considering the nature of the indictment and the circumstances of the case -- and despite the fact that according to legal opinion I am not obligated to do so -- I have decided to resign from office," Lieberman said in a statement released Friday.

"I know that I have done nothing wrong, but out of desire to put this matter behind me… I have decided to step down as foreign minister and deputy prime minister and, as I said yesterday, have my parliamentary immunity removed immediately," he said.

"After 16 years of having various investigations held against me, I wish to end this matter without delay and clear my name completely," Lieberman said, noting that the Israeli public deserves to have the matter settled "with a ruling given before the elections, so I can continue serving the State of Israel and its public as part of a strong, united leadership."

MK Zehava Galon, chairwoman of the ultra-left-wing Meretz Party, petitioned the Supreme Court to force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Lieberman.

Other left-wing politicians joined in the criticism, including Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, who accused Lieberman of damaging "the public's trust in its elected officials and in democracy."

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