Avigdor Liberman Reinstated as Foreign Minister in Knesset Vote

Liberman takes oath of office after 62-17 vote for reinstatement; returns after year fighting corruption charges. Leftist MKs up in arms.

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Tova Dvorin,

Liberman and Netanyahu shake hands after Liku
Liberman and Netanyahu shake hands after Liku

MK Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) has been sworn in as Foreign Minister Monday, passing a Knesset vote of 62-17. 

Several left-wing politicians expressed disappointment at the decision. During the proceedings, MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) reportedly stated that the reinstatement "is an explosive device to Israel's foreign relations - no less", referring to Liberman's reputation abroad as a prickly hardliner. 

MK Micky Rosenthal (Labor) stated, "Liberman should be held accountable by the public to confirm where he got the millions of NIS in his account." 

The Arab sector has responded even more virulently.

Jamal Zahalkah (Balad) declared that the appointment is a statement about the direction of the current government, and called on the Palestinian Authority to stop negotiations with Israel and the US; MK Hana Sweid (Hadash) also declared that the government now has a "true rightist settler" and that "it will torpedo the peace process and harm Israeli citizens by doing so."  MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) named the decision as the latest in a "competition to see who can be more fanatical." 

Other MKs were more pleased by the decision. MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) welcomed Liberman back to the post, stating that "a 17-year trial does not befit the Israeli legal justice system." 

MK Yehiel Bar (Labor) ended the debate by storm after he accused fellow left-wing MKs of calling Liberman "a fascist and a racist." He then engaged in a long and heated debated with Gal-On. "Freedom of expression according to the Left means that they are unable to hear an opposing opinion," he said. 

After the vote, Liberman was sworn in as Foreign Minister. AFP reports that Netanyahu told a meeting of ministers and MKs that he looked forward to Lieberman's return to government.

"In a few hours we shall be able to welcome (him) back to the cabinet table," he said in remarks broadcast on public radio. "I missed him."

"We have a lot to work on; great tests and great challenges," Netanyahu added. "Welcome back."