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Middle east

Lieberman to get foreign ministry in right-wing coalition

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT , Nicolas GERMAIN

Text by Nina BIDDLE LUNA

Latest update : 2009-03-16

The Likud party of Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a deal with the ultra-right Yisrael Beitenu to form a new coalition government. Far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman is expected to get the coveted foreign ministry.

Far-right leader Avidgor Lieberman has signed a preliminary agreement to become Israel’s foreign minister under prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, officials for both Yisrael Beitenu and Likud have said.

The first coalition agreement with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, in which the party would take charge of four additional ministries, puts Netanyahu in a gambling position as he tries to create a broad-based government which will not immediately scupper the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

“Arab countries could have difficulties negotiating with Avigdor Lieberman,” explains FRANCE 24 correspondent Carla Westerheide, in Jerusalem. “Lieberman is known for his inflammatory rhetoric. Critics have labelled him racist, even fascist.”

It’s not just the Arab countries that could react negatively. The deal with Lieberman, which “is not a done deal; it’s not done until it’s signed,” according to GRN correspondent for FRANCE 24 Iris Makler, is seen as contradictory to US President Barack Obama’s administration goals of seeking a Palestinian state.
 
“This has huge implications for the peace process,” says Makler. “And internally for Israeli politics because it makes Lieberman a very big player and very strong. That gives this small right-wing party enormous strength - perhaps more strength than the Israeli people would want.”

Under the agreement the party of Lieberman, a Russian-speaking immigrant from ex-Soviet Moldova, would have four other portfolios including internal security, tourism, infrastructure and immigration.

Fearing a right-wing government could lose favour internally in just 12 to 18 months, adds Makler, Netanyahu continues to try to woo centrist Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party to join his coalition. “Talks have resumed this week,” says Makler.

But the former rivals are divided on two vital issues: Livni’s demand that she and Netanyahu take turns as prime ministers and agreement to sign up to a two-state solution.

Centre-left Labour have refused to join Nentanyahu’s cabinet.

The deadline for Netanyahu to form a government is April 3.

Date created : 2009-03-16

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