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Israeli cabinet votes in Avigdor Lieberman as new defence minister

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Avigdor Lieberman has been officially approved as Israel’s new defence minister.

The appointment was confirmed following a telephone vote by government ministers this morning.

The decision followed protracted negotiations between Mr Netanyahu's Likud party and Mr Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu grouping.

It was almost scuppered after Naftali Bennett, the leader of Jewish Home party, threatened to leave the coalition government if his demands for changes to the way the security cabinet operated were not met.

An agreement between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Bennett was reached yesterday allowing Mr Lieberman’s appointment to go ahead.

Sofa Landver, also a member of Yisrael Beiteinu, will join the government as Minister of Absorption.

The new ministers are due to be officially sworn in this evening.

In a statement, Haim Katz, Welfare Minister and chairman of Likud's central committee, said the addition of the Yisrael Beiteinu members to the coalition ”strengthens the national leadership and helps the government to continue to promote measures to improve the well-being of Israel's citizens".

He said he was confident that Mr Lieberman would "stand firm in the face of security challenges".

With Mr Lieberman joining the coalition, Mr Netanyahu has succeeded in increasing his narrow majority in the Knesset to 66 seats to 54.

The defence minister post became vacant earlier this month after Moshe Yaalon quit, saying that he could no longer trust Mr Netanyahu following a dispute over the IDF's morality in fighting Palestinian violence.

He left claiming that: "Israel, as well as the Likud party, has been taken over by dangerous and extreme elements".

Unlike his predecessor, Mr Lieberman, a former foreign minister, is regarded with suspicion by members of the Israeli armed forces, considered at best, as an unknown quantity, at worst, the harbinger of a new order.

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