(Reuters) - Israel’s attorney general told Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday that he faced indictment for fraud, money laundering and witness-tampering, charges that could force his resignation.
Here are key facts about Lieberman, an ultranationalist and senior partner in Israel’s governing coalition:
* Born Evet Lieberman in the Soviet city of Kishinev, now Chisinau, capital of Moldova, on June 5, 1958, Lieberman immigrated with his parents to Israel in 1978. Changing his name to Avigdor, he added Hebrew to his native Russian. He also speaks English and the Romanian of Moldova.
* After compulsory military service, Lieberman took a social science degree at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. He held various jobs, including that of an airport baggage handler and a much-cited spell as a nightclub bouncer. While a student in Jerusalem, he began his career as an activist in the right-wing Likud party of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
* Lieberman became Likud’s administrative head in 1993 and ran Benjamin Netanyahu’s office from 1996 to 1997 during Netanyahu’s first prime ministerial term. Frustration with coalition politics led the burly politician to quit and found Yisrael Beiteinu (Our Home is Israel) in 1999.
* Lieberman has questioned the loyalties of Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens, drawing accusations of racism but also a large electoral following beyond his Russian-speaking base.
* He and his wife, Ella, live in the Jewish settlement of Nokdim in the occupied West Bank. They have a daughter and two sons.
* Yisrael Beiteinu won 15 of parliament’s 120 seats in the 2009 general elections. It is the third-largest party behind centrist Kadima which is in opposition, and Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud. Lieberman has on several occasions openly taken a harsher line than Netanyahu on foreign policy and in domestic politics.
* Probably his most challenging pronouncements — immediately disowned by Netanyahu — were made to the United Nations General Assembly in a speech in September when he said the now-dormant Israel-Palestinian peace process had no chance of success and Israel should pursue long-term interim peace deals. He also proposed population swaps where Arab citizens of Israel would fall under Palestinian rule in exchange for Jewish settlements in the West Bank becoming part of Israel.
In domestic politics he has brashly dismissed Netanyahu on several occasions, most recently saying that Netanyahu’s choice for ambassador to Britain would not get the job because as foreign minister, he had the last word on such appointments.
* Police investigations into allegations of wrongdoing by Lieberman were opened about 10 years ago but with no apparent outcome emerging from the probes, Lieberman has called on law-enforcement authorities either to charge him or exonerate him.
Writing by Ori Lewis and Alastair Macdonald