Israel's new hardline defence minister Lieberman pledges 'balanced' policy as Palestine warns of instability

Israel's newly named defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said he would have a balanced policy while in office.
Israel's newly named defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said he would have a balanced policy while in office.PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel's newly named defence minister Avigdor Lieberman pledged a "balanced policy" on Wednesday (May 25) as the hardliner celebrated a deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to expand his governing coalition.

The two men spoke during a ceremony at parliament to mark the deal that brings Lieberman's ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party into the government. Lieberman has yet to be officially sworn in as minister.

In Palestine, a senior official said Lieberman's appointment as Israel’s defence minister represents a “real threat” to regional stability.

“The existence of this government brings a real threat of instability and extremism in the region,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP, adding that the appointment would “result in apartheid, racism and religious and political extremism.”

Netanyahu confirmed on Wednesday that Jewish settler Lieberman would take over as defence minister, in which capacity he is responsible for implementing Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.  

The appointment has raised fears over the government’s further drift to the right, with Lieberman favouring the death penalty for the perpetrators of anti-Israeli attacks.  

Hamas, the Palestinian faction which rules the Gaza Strip and which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, also condemned Lieberman’s appointment.

“The choice of Lieberman represents an increase in the racism and extremism of the Israeli occupation,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.