Security checking Israel's Mr. Security: Who is new defense minister Avigdor Lieberman?

Published June 2nd, 2016 - 17:24 GMT

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Last week, the Israeli government led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party reached a deal to add fellow right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our home) to its coalition. Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader - the boisterous and controversial Avigdor Lieberman - was named as new defense minister, moving a government which previous defense minister Moshe Yaalon called “extremist and dangerous” further to the right. His first day in office was May 31. So who is this onetime nightclub bouncer and immigrant from the former Soviet Union? And why is his appointment to the defense minister post generating such attention? --AL

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Lieberman praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He was born in Chișinău, Moldova - then part of the Soviet Union - in 1958 into a Jewish family. He grew up speaking Yiddish (a Jewish Germanic language) and Russian. Along with his family, he immigrated to Israel in 1978. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)
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Image 1 of 9:  1 / 9Lieberman praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He was born in Chișinău, Moldova - then part of the Soviet Union - in 1958 into a Jewish family. He grew up speaking Yiddish (a Jewish Germanic language) and Russian. Along with his family, he immigrated to Israel in 1978. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

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Lieberman (far right) dressed as Genghis Khan for Purim. He and his party support an Israeli state that is explicitly Jewish and Zionist in character, and propose land swaps between Jewish settlements and Palestinian areas of Israel, as well as loyalty oaths and military service for all. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)
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Image 2 of 9:  2 / 9Lieberman (far right) dressed as Genghis Khan for Purim. He and his party support an Israeli state that is explicitly Jewish and Zionist in character, and propose land swaps between Jewish settlements and Palestinian areas of Israel, as well as loyalty oaths and military service for all. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

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Lieberman speaking at a Yisrael Beiteinu rally. In his first speech as defense minister, he praised the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), his successor Yaalon, and reiterated his support for peace with the Palestinians. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)
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Image 3 of 9:  3 / 9Lieberman speaking at a Yisrael Beiteinu rally. In his first speech as defense minister, he praised the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), his successor Yaalon, and reiterated his support for peace with the Palestinians. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

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Lieberman with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers. Lieberman is known for his hardline stance on Palestinian militant groups, and said if he were to become defense minister Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would have 48 hours to live. (Avigor Lieberman/Facebook)
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Image 4 of 9:  4 / 9Lieberman with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers. Lieberman is known for his hardline stance on Palestinian militant groups, and said if he were to become defense minister Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would have 48 hours to live. (Avigor Lieberman/Facebook)

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Lieberman previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Netanyahu’s government from 2012 to 2015, leaving after he decried Netanyahu’s response to the then conflict in Gaza as too weak. The current coalition between the two brings Likud’s ultra-thin majority in the Knesset up to 66 from 61. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
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Image 5 of 9:  5 / 9Lieberman previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Netanyahu’s government from 2012 to 2015, leaving after he decried Netanyahu’s response to the then conflict in Gaza as too weak. The current coalition between the two brings Likud’s ultra-thin majority in the Knesset up to 66 from 61. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

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Lieberman has been criticized for his statements towards Palestinians, such as his call to boycott Palestinian businesses in Israel who closed in protest of the 2014 Gaza War, and punishment for protesters of Israeli policy, including those on Palestinian Nakba Day. (AFP)
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Image 6 of 9:  6 / 9Lieberman has been criticized for his statements towards Palestinians, such as his call to boycott Palestinian businesses in Israel who closed in protest of the 2014 Gaza War, and punishment for protesters of Israeli policy, including those on Palestinian Nakba Day. (AFP)

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Locals walking before sunset near Jerusalem’s Yaffa Gate. Lieberman is reportedly a diehard fan of Jerusalem’s football team: Beitar Jerusalem, known for its hooliganism and nationalism. (Hunter Stuart/Al Bawaba)
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Image 7 of 9:  7 / 9Locals walking before sunset near Jerusalem’s Yaffa Gate. Lieberman is reportedly a diehard fan of Jerusalem’s football team: Beitar Jerusalem, known for its hooliganism and nationalism. (Hunter Stuart/Al Bawaba)

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Lieberman supports stronger Israel-Russia relations, and has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin. Around one million Russian speakers arrived in Israel in the early 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. (AFP)
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Image 8 of 9:  8 / 9Lieberman supports stronger Israel-Russia relations, and has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin. Around one million Russian speakers arrived in Israel in the early 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. (AFP)

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Lieberman celebrating Hannukah last year. Lieberman lives in the Jewish West Bank settlement Nokdim with his wife and children. Such settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. (@AvigdorLieberman/Twitter)
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Image 9 of 9:  9 / 9Lieberman celebrating Hannukah last year. Lieberman lives in the Jewish West Bank settlement Nokdim with his wife and children. Such settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. (@AvigdorLieberman/Twitter)

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Lieberman praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He was born in Chișinău, Moldova - then part of the Soviet Union - in 1958 into a Jewish family. He grew up speaking Yiddish (a Jewish Germanic language) and Russian. Along with his family, he immigrated to Israel in 1978. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

Image 1 of 9Lieberman praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He was born in Chișinău, Moldova - then part of the Soviet Union - in 1958 into a Jewish family. He grew up speaking Yiddish (a Jewish Germanic language) and Russian. Along with his family, he immigrated to Israel in 1978. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

2

Lieberman (far right) dressed as Genghis Khan for Purim. He and his party support an Israeli state that is explicitly Jewish and Zionist in character, and propose land swaps between Jewish settlements and Palestinian areas of Israel, as well as loyalty oaths and military service for all. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

Image 2 of 9Lieberman (far right) dressed as Genghis Khan for Purim. He and his party support an Israeli state that is explicitly Jewish and Zionist in character, and propose land swaps between Jewish settlements and Palestinian areas of Israel, as well as loyalty oaths and military service for all. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

3

Lieberman speaking at a Yisrael Beiteinu rally. In his first speech as defense minister, he praised the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), his successor Yaalon, and reiterated his support for peace with the Palestinians. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

Image 3 of 9Lieberman speaking at a Yisrael Beiteinu rally. In his first speech as defense minister, he praised the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), his successor Yaalon, and reiterated his support for peace with the Palestinians. (Avigdor Lieberman/Facebook)

4

Lieberman with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers. Lieberman is known for his hardline stance on Palestinian militant groups, and said if he were to become defense minister Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would have 48 hours to live. (Avigor Lieberman/Facebook)

Image 4 of 9Lieberman with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers. Lieberman is known for his hardline stance on Palestinian militant groups, and said if he were to become defense minister Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would have 48 hours to live. (Avigor Lieberman/Facebook)

5

Lieberman previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Netanyahu’s government from 2012 to 2015, leaving after he decried Netanyahu’s response to the then conflict in Gaza as too weak. The current coalition between the two brings Likud’s ultra-thin majority in the Knesset up to 66 from 61. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Image 5 of 9Lieberman previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Netanyahu’s government from 2012 to 2015, leaving after he decried Netanyahu’s response to the then conflict in Gaza as too weak. The current coalition between the two brings Likud’s ultra-thin majority in the Knesset up to 66 from 61. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

6

Lieberman has been criticized for his statements towards Palestinians, such as his call to boycott Palestinian businesses in Israel who closed in protest of the 2014 Gaza War, and punishment for protesters of Israeli policy, including those on Palestinian Nakba Day. (AFP)

Image 6 of 9Lieberman has been criticized for his statements towards Palestinians, such as his call to boycott Palestinian businesses in Israel who closed in protest of the 2014 Gaza War, and punishment for protesters of Israeli policy, including those on Palestinian Nakba Day. (AFP)

7

Locals walking before sunset near Jerusalem’s Yaffa Gate. Lieberman is reportedly a diehard fan of Jerusalem’s football team: Beitar Jerusalem, known for its hooliganism and nationalism. (Hunter Stuart/Al Bawaba)

Image 7 of 9Locals walking before sunset near Jerusalem’s Yaffa Gate. Lieberman is reportedly a diehard fan of Jerusalem’s football team: Beitar Jerusalem, known for its hooliganism and nationalism. (Hunter Stuart/Al Bawaba)

8

Lieberman supports stronger Israel-Russia relations, and has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin. Around one million Russian speakers arrived in Israel in the early 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. (AFP)

Image 8 of 9Lieberman supports stronger Israel-Russia relations, and has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin. Around one million Russian speakers arrived in Israel in the early 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. (AFP)

9

Lieberman celebrating Hannukah last year. Lieberman lives in the Jewish West Bank settlement Nokdim with his wife and children. Such settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. (@AvigdorLieberman/Twitter)

Image 9 of 9Lieberman celebrating Hannukah last year. Lieberman lives in the Jewish West Bank settlement Nokdim with his wife and children. Such settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. (@AvigdorLieberman/Twitter)

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