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Israel's 'warmongering' defence chief Lieberman resigns to protest Gaza ceasefire

Lieberman's political career is marked anti-Arab tirades and strident populism. [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 November, 2018

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Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday and called for early elections after a sharp disagreement over a Gaza ceasefire deal with Hamas, throwing the Israeli government into turmoil.

Israeli far-right Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is known for his belligerence, announced his resignation on Wednesday and called for early elections to protest a Gaza ceasefire deal with Hamas, throwing the government into turmoil.

"What happened yesterday - the truce combined with the process with Hamas - is capitulating to terror. It has no other meaning," Lieberman told journalists in explaining his reasons for resigning.

"What we're doing now as a state is buying short-term quiet, with the price being severe long-term damage to national security."

He added later: "We should agree on a date for elections as early as possible."

Hamas responded to his resignation by lauding it as "political victory for Gaza".

Described as a 'warmonger' by the Jewish Telegraph Agency upon his appointment in 2016, Lieberman also said his party was leaving Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition, leaving the premier with only a paper thin one-seat majority in parliament.

The far-right religious nationalist Jewish Home party, which has eight seats in the coalition, is expected to demand that their leader Naftali Bennet take the position of defence minister.

Far-right nationalist Lieberman once suggested bombing Egypt's Aswan dam, while in 2003 the then-transport minister called for the mass drowning of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea

Rumours swirled in Israeli media that if the Jewish Home party does not receive the portfolio it will quit Netanyahu's coalition, leaving the prime minister without a parliamentary majority.

Netanyahu will take over the role of defence minister on an interim basis.

Elections are not due until November 2019, but Lieberman's resignation increases the likelihood of an earlier vote.

Lieberman also personally criticised Netanyahu for allowing Qatari-funded fuel to enter the besieged Gaza Strip.

Ultra-nationalist, anti-Palestinian extremist

Born in the Soviet Union, Lieberman, a former nightclub bouncer, is known as a belligerent force in Israeli politics, making a series of controversial statements and policy proposals throughout his political career.

Lieberman, who lives in a settlement in the occupied West Bank, has regularly called for the mass transfer of Palestinians from Israel and demanded the imposition of a 'Loyalty Oath' for non-Jewish Israelis – calling for disloyal Palestinian citizens of Israel to be "beheaded".

The far-right nationalist once suggested bombing Egypt's Aswan dam, while in 2003 the then-transport minister called for the mass drowning of Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea.

He has routinely called for brutal military offensives in Gaza and Lebanon, arguing during a 2009 military offensive in Gaza that Israel should fight Hamas like the "United States did with the Japanese in World War II".

Lieberman has faced multiple criminal investigations in his career, going on trial in 2012 for corruption before being eventually acquitted on fraud and breach of trust charges.

In 2001, he was convicted of assaulting a 12-year-old boy who had hit his son, pleading guilty to assault and threatening behaviour.

Agencies contributed to this report

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