Avigdor Lieberman made defence minister after deal with Benjamin Netanyahu
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Avigdor Lieberman made defence minister after deal with Benjamin Netanyahu

The hard-line nationalist has become Israel's second most powerful politician, after singing a coalition agreement

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Lieberman and Netanyahu at a press conference after signing the coalition agreement (Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Lieberman and Netanyahu at a press conference after signing the coalition agreement (Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Ultra-nationalist party leader Avigdor Lieberman became Israel’s new defence minister this week, after his small parliamentary bloc struck a deal to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.

The leader of Yisrael Beitenu, which draws its support from Russian-speaking Israelis, now replaces respected former chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon as Israel’s second most powerful politician.

Resigning last week, Ya’alon said Israel had been overrun by “extremist and dangerous elements,” a warning echoed by another former defence minister, Ehud Barak, who said Israel was infected by “seeds of fascism”.

Lieberman, a former foreign minister known for upsetting allies, has been investigated for corruption after colleagues alleged that he made friends ambassadors in return for them passing him confidential information about a police probe into separate corruption allegations. He was found not guilty.

He is also adamantly opposed to a two-state solution, having previously suggested “transferring” Israel’s Arabs out of the country.

Yet despite Lieberman’s inclusion this week, Netanyahu said: “I am committed to promoting the peace process. I am committed to make every effort to reach an agreement.”

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