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Inside Story

The return of Avigdor Lieberman

As the far-right politician is welcomed back into government by Netanyahu, we ask how he will impact Israeli politics.

Last updated: 12 Nov 2013 11:07
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He has been described as the "worst foreign minister in Israel's history." But now after being acquitted of corruption charges, Avigdor Lieberman is said to be reinstated as Israel's foreign minister . 

He is quite an enigmatic figure ... but he isn’t necessarily only the things that many people around the world know him as … He’s promoted people… from minority population in Israel to quite high position … he is also the man … who [has opened] more embassies around the world than previous foreign ministers ... trying to broaden Israel’s interaction with the wider world, not just in terms of the Palestinian issue but also in other bilateral trade agreements.

Jonathan Secerdoti, a Middle East analyst

At a particularly sensitive time for Israel's relations with the rest of the world, Lieberman's return is being seen as cause for concern.

He has a strong constituency among right-wing Israelis but he is a controversial figure.

Lieberman was born and raised in the Soviet Union, before immigrating to Israel in 1978 at the age of 20. He worked for the Likud party but he resigned in 1997 in protest at negotiations with Palestinians.

He went on to form the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party in 1999. It was known to represent former Soviet immigrants, who support a hard line in talks with Palestinians.
 
Ten years later, Yisrael Beiteinu took third place in parliamentary elections, and Lieberman as 'kingmaker' took up the powerful posts of foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

In the past, he has created controversy by questioning the loyalty of Israeli Palestinians, and he has also called for the removal of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, describing him as a 'diplomatic terrorist.'

"The fate of the collaborators in the Knesset will be identical to that of those who collaborated with the Nazis. Collaborators, as well as criminals, were executed after the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War II. I hope that will be the fate of collaborators in this house," he declared in 2006.

Regarded even by those within the Israeli government as a hardliner on the Palestinian issue, some say Lieberman's presence in the cabinet could have a deeply negative impact on the latest round of negotiations.

So what impact will his return have on Israel's foreign policy? And how long will Lieberman remain Netanyahu's political ally? 

Inside Story, with presenter Sue Turton, is joined by guests: Jonathan Rynhold, a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University; Husam Zomlot, Fatah's deputy commissioner of foreign relations; and Jonathan Sacerdoti, a Middle East analyst and former director of public affairs for the Zionist Federation in the UK. 

"[This] is another sign that the current Israeli coalition headed by Netanyahu it is not opting for a diplomatic solution … but really invested and interested in keeping the coalition and most importantly in ensuring that this coalition will be represented by the maximum far right ... Lieberman is a settler himself .... We Palestinians are not really concerned [about] his criminal records, or his financial dealings, this is for the Israeli legal system to sort out. We are interested in his public corruption and his political corruption."

Husam Zolot, Fatah's deputy commissioner of foreign relations

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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