The hard-line Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman has been sworn in by parliament as the country’s foreign minister, a development that could complicate peace talks with Palestinians.
The leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party was reappointed to the ministry on Monday after being cleared last week of all charges in a corruption case. He had stepped down as foreign minister last year to defend the charges.
The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had left the post vacant for Lieberman while he awaited the verdict. The
|Inside Story: Avigdor Liberman|
two men warmly hugged after the foreign minister was sworn in by parliament.
An Israeli court acquitted him on Wednesday of fraud and breach of trust stemming from allegations he had given an Israeli diplomat an ambassador’s post in exchange for a tip-off about a police inquiry into his affairs.
The court agreed he had engaged in “inappropriate conduct” but did not find it warranted a criminal conviction.
Labour MP Micky Rosenthal said in the parliamentary debate that accompanied Lieberman’s confirmation on Monday that although the court had cleared him of breaking the law, there was still “a giant shadow over his public behaviour”.
Lieberman will likely use his significant political clout to argue against concessions to the Palestinians, making him an unpredictable player in already troubled US-backed peace efforts.
As head of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, which is allied with Netanyahu’s Likud, Lieberman has been outspoken in his scepticism about the negotiations, saying reaching a permanent peace deal is impossible.
Lieberman has been accused of racism, stirring controversy by questioning the loyalty of Israel’s Arab citizens and proposing some Arab communities in Israel be shifted to Palestinian control in a land-for-peace deal.
He has also called for the removal of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, describing him as an obstacle to peace.