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Hardliner Lieberman returns as Israel foreign minister

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (C) visits the Western Wall after being acquitted for charges of corruption following his trial on November 6, 2013 in Jerusalem
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (C) visits the Western Wall after being acquitted for charges of corruption following his trial on November 6, 2013 in Jerusalem

Right-wing firebrand Avigdor Lieberman took his oath of office in front of the Israeli parliament on Monday, returning as foreign minister after he quit to fight corruption charges.

The 120-member house confirmed his reappointment by a vote of 62 to 17, almost a year after he resigned to fight the corruption charges which he was cleared of last week.

Lieberman heads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party, which entered into a formal alliance with Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in October 2012.

Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu told a meeting of ministers and MPs from the alliance 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."

Critics have long accused Lieberman of racism, especially after he said much of Israel's Arab-populated areas should be joined to a Palestinian state in exchange for Israel keeping its West Bank settlements.

He has also shown open disdain for western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, calling him a "diplomatic terrorist" and an obstacle to peace.

Lawmaker Zehava Gal-On of the left-wing opposition Meretz party, said that reinstating the burly former nightclub bouncer could further complicate already faltering US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.

"It's like putting a bomb in the peace process,' she told the parliament.

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