Right-wing hardliner Avigdor Lieberman returns as Israel’s foreign minister
Right-wing firebrand Avigdor Lieberman took his oath of office in front of the Israeli parliament on Monday, returning as foreign minister after he quit to fight corruption charges.
The 120-member house confirmed his reappointment by a vote of 62 to 17, almost a year after he resigned to fight the corruption charges which he was cleared of last week.
Lieberman heads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party, which entered into a formal alliance with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in October 2012.
Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu told a meeting of ministers and MPs from the alliance that he looked forward to Lieberman’s return to government.
“In a few hours we shall be able to welcome (him) back to the cabinet table,” he said in remarks broadcast on public radio. “I missed him.”
“We have a lot to work on; great tests and great challenges,” Netanyahu added. “Welcome back.”
Critics have long accused Lieberman of racism, especially after he said much of Israel’s Arab-populated areas should be joined to a Palestinian state in exchange for Israel keeping its West Bank settlements.
He has also shown open disdain for western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, calling him a “diplomatic terrorist” and an obstacle to peace.
Lawmaker Zehava Gal-On of the left-wing opposition Meretz party, said that reinstating the burly former nightclub bouncer could further complicate already faltering US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.
“It’s like putting a bomb in the peace process,’ she told the parliament.