Avigdor Lieberman, who stepped down as foreign minister of Israel last week and has been indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust, is still hopeful of playing a key role in the next government, with elections three weeks ago.
He may well be right.
The taint of breaking the law hasn’t hurt other Israeli political figures like Aryeh Deri, who was reinstated as leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party this past fall after being out of politics for more than a dozen years – in part because he was found guilty of accepting bribes when in office and served almost two years in jail.
The list of Israeli politicians accused of and found guilty of crimes involving large sums of money is not a short one, and of course a former president, Moshe Katsav, sits in jail after being convicted of rape.
Katsav will never hold office again, but the others might. Israelis don’t seem to eliminate people as potential candidates just because they’ve been charged or convicted in the past. Not unlike the citizens of Washington, D.C. who re-elected Marion Barry as mayor after he served time for drug use.
Is that a sign of deep forgiveness, or pragmatism in looking for the best person for the job, regardless of his or her past, or a belief that the politicians in question were framed and are guiltless?
Hard to tell, but Natan Sharansky, the famed refuseniks and former government minister who now heads the Jewish Agency for Israel, has the best line when he says he is unique among Israeli politicians.
“I went to jail first,” he explains, “and then I went into politics.”
Now, it appears, some of his colleagues are seeking career comebacks after serving time.