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Israeli foreign minister quits after indictment on fraud charges

Roni Schutzer / AFP - Getty Images

Avigdor Lieberman stepped down Friday as foreign minister of Israel after he was charged with fraud and breach of trust.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Friday he was resigning after being charged with fraud and breach of trust, in a move that could have repercussions on the upcoming general election.

"Though I know I committed no crime ... I have decided to resign my post as foreign minister and deputy prime minister," Lieberman said in a statement emailed to news organizations.

He added that he hoped to clear his name "without delay."

Israel's Justice Ministry said Thursday it would charge Lieberman over alleged irregularities tied to the promotion of an Israeli diplomat who had leaked him privileged information about a police probe into his activities.

Other charges dropped
More serious allegations, including money-laundering and bribery, were dropped, but even the lesser charges cast a cloud over his political future.

Within 24 hours of receiving the ministry report, Lieberman decided to stand down.

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It was unclear if he would still run in the Jan. 22 general election, although Israeli newspapers have suggested he might be forced to sit on the sidelines as the judicial case moves ahead.

Lieberman's right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu (Our Home is Israel) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud group have formed an electoral pact ahead of the ballot and opinion polls had predicted they would win.

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Nationalistic rhetoric
An outspoken foreign minister and a powerful partner in the governing coalition, Lieberman is known for his nationalistic rhetoric, making it a key component of his election campaigning.

Without the Moldovan-born politician near the top of the bill, some pollsters have speculated that the combined group will see a slippage in support.

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An official in the prime minister's office told Reuters that Netanyahu would serve as acting foreign minister until the election.

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