Israeli far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman was sworn in as foreign minister on Monday after his acquittal on corruption charges, a development that could further complicate peace talks with the Palestinians.
Lieberman stepped down last year when he was indicted. His reinstatement to the role, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had held open for him, is likely to harden the tone of Israeli diplomacy.
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 U.S.-sponsored negotiations with Palestinians that resumed in July after a three-year impasse. He says that reaching a permanent peace deal is impossible.
Netanyahu last week painted a grim picture of the talks, saying they had failed to make progress. Visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Israel it could face a third Palestinian uprising if they failed.
A Jerusalem court on Wednesday acquitted Lieberman on charges 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.
Lieberman, who was sworn in by parliament, has stirred 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 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, describing him as an obstacle to peace. DM
Photo: Avigdor Lieberman, head of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, attends a Likud-Beitenu faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem November 11, 2013. The Israeli cabinet approved on Sunday the return of Lieberman as foreign minister after his acquittal on corruption charges, in a move that could further complicate peace talks with the Palestinians. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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