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Israel's ultranationalist foreign minister Avigdor Liberman returns to office

By Michael Schwartz, CNN
November 12, 2013 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Liberman on Janurary 23, 2013 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Liberman on Janurary 23, 2013 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Avigdor Liberman was sworn in as Israel's foreign minister again on Monday
  • On November 6, a court acquitted him of breach of trust and fraud charges
  • Liberman had resigned as foreign minister in December 2012 to face the charges
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held the position open for Liberman's return

(CNN) -- On Monday night, Avigdor Liberman was sworn in as Israel's foreign minister after an absence of almost a year, amid a crescendo of opposition protests in the Knesset.

A comfortable majority vote -- 62 members voting for, 17 against and one abstention -- paved his way back into office. But his hard-line attitude on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks may put him in the diplomatic deep end with those trying to advance the process.

Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich said reappointing Liberman was a mistake. "In light of the attempts to reignite the negotiations with the Palestinians and delicate relations with the U.S. and especially the complex diplomacy involved in the Iranian situation, a foreign minister like Liberman will deepen the rifts and pour fuel on fires rather than putting them out," she said. "This is not good for Israel."

Liberman views Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an obstacle to peace. His Yisrael Beiteinu party is also supportive of West Bank Jewish settlements, whose presence is reviled by Palestinians and many Israelis, who consider them obstacles to a peace agreement.

Read more: Israel warns against unilateral Palestinian move

Liberman's view seems to contradict the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has entered into a negotiating process with the Palestinian Authority.

Liberman was acquitted last week on charges of breach of trust and fraud.

Netanyahu had held the Foreign Ministry position for almost a year after Liberman resigned to face the charges, and welcomed him back into the government.

The trial centered on claims Liberman had pushed to get the Israeli ambassador to Belarus transferred after the diplomat allegedly handed over confidential information that included details of a secret police inquiry regarding Liberman. Liberman denied violating any laws.

Liberman has faced international criticism for his hard-line stance on Israel's Arab minorities.

His ultranationalist party is especially popular with immigrants from the former Soviet Union, where he was born and raised.

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