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Dark horse Lieberman puts far right in contention

Video by Philip CROWTHER , Marc DE CHALVRON

Latest update : 2009-05-04

In further proof of a swing to the right during a lacklustre campaign, the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party of Avigdor Lieberman threatens to draw support from traditional Likud backers.

REUTERS - Avigdor Lieberman leads Yisrael Beiteinu,a far-right party that polls suggest could leap into third placein a parliamentary election on Tuesday.


* Born Evet Lieberman in the Soviet city of Kishinev, now Chisinau, capital of Moldova, on June 5, 1958, Lieberman studied at the local agricultural institute. His father Lev was a Red Army veteran who was taken prisoner by the Germans and later spent 7 years in a Siberian Gulag labour camp under Stalin.


* With his parents, who had met in Siberia, Lieberman immigrated to Israel in 1978 as part of an early influx of Jews from the Soviet Union. Changing his name to Avigdor, he addedHebrew to his native Russian. He also speaks English and the Romanian of Moldova.


* He served as an army corporal, took a social science degree and held various jobs, including as an airport baggage handler and a much-cited spell as a nightclub bouncer. While a student in Jerusalem, he began his career as an activist in the right-wing Likud party of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin.


* Administrative head of Likud from 1993, he ran the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from 1996 to 1997.

* Frustrated with coalition politics, he founded Yisrael Beiteinu (Our Home is Israel) in 1999, calling for a strong presidency and a peace deal with the Palestinians under which Israel would swap land on which many of its 1.5 million Arab citizens live for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Buoyed by support among the massive influx of Russian speakers
in the 1990s, he served in three governments from 2001 to 2008.


* He quit Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition in January last year in protest at new, U.S.-sponsored talks with the Palestinians.

* He questions the loyalties of Israel's Arab citizens and his anti-Arab rhetoric has won a large following beyond his Russian-speaking base.

* Lieberman rejects sharing Jerusalem with a Palestinian state and a withdrawal from West Bank settlements like Nokdim, where he has lived since 1988 with Ella, his wife of 28 years. They have a daughter and two sons.

Date created : 2009-02-09