Israeli cabinet approves new hardline defence minister

Jerusalem, May 30 (IANS) The Israeli cabinet on Monday approved hardline lawmaker Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister, as his ultranationalist Yisrael Beytenu (“Israel Our Home”) party joined the ruling coalition.

A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said the cabinet “unanimously” voted in favour of Lieberman’s appointment and his colleague Sofa Landver’s appointment as the immigrant absorption minister.

The Knesset (parliament) is expected to approve the change before Lieberman and Landver are sworn in to their new positions.

The move will increase the advantage of Netanyahu’s coalition over the opposition from a razor-thin 61-59 lead to 66-54.

The new right-wing coalition passed its first hurdle after Naftali Bennett, leader of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party, threatened to block the expansion by voting against it in the Knesset.

A settlement was found overnight, paving the way for the vote on Monday morning.

Under his new position, Lieberman will be in charge of implementing Israel’s policy in the occupied West Bank.

The appointment of Lieberman to the sensitive post sparked condemnations and concerns in Israel and abroad, as he is seen as one of the most polarising politicians in Israel.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last week that the new government, widely described as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history, “raises legitimate questions” about its commitment to finding a peaceful solution with the Palestinians.

–IANS

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