Israeli FM questioned in bribery probe

A day after he assumed his new job, controversial Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday endured more than seven hours of questioning by police in a long-standing probe over business dealings.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said National Fraud Investigation Unit officers queried Lieberman “under warning” on suspicion of bribery, money laundering, fraud, and breach of trust. “Under warning” means that anything he disclosed in the interview may be used as evidence if he is charged. The allegations include receiving a bribe via his daughter Michal’s consulting firm. Lieberman denies the allegations and says they are motivated by politics. His daughter and lawyer also have been questioned by authorities. “This investigation is going on for 13 years. In today’s investigation Lieberman cooperated and answered investigators’ questions,” Lieberman’s spokeswoman Irena Etinger said. Lieberman has emerged as a controversial figure in Israel, where his right-wing Yisrael Beytenu movement came in third in the recent Israeli elections, behind Likud and Kadima.

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Over the years, his comments directed toward Arabs have been slammed as racist. During his handover ceremony on Wednesday to his new job, he bluntly distanced himself from the Annapolis peace process — the effort started in 2007 to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Israelis generally have become frustrated with the peace processes in recent years and have moved to the right, because of the war with Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities that sparked the country’s Gaza offensive. Yisrael Beytenu has benefitted from that public mood.