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Hardline Avigdor Lieberman sworn in as Israel's defence minister

Avigdor Lieberman has been confirmed as the new Israeli defence minister completing a new right-wing government coalition
Israeli Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett (L) greets ultra-nationalist MP Avigdor Lieberman (AFP)

Ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman was sworn in as Israel's new defence minister after winning support in the cabinet and in parliament on Monday, ending weeks of political intrigue and outrage.

Lieberman, who has pledged harsh measures against Palestinian "terrorists," was approved by 55 members of the 120-seat Knesset while 43 voted against, one abstained and the others were absent.

The prime minister's office said that as part of the reshuffle, veteran Likud MP Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee, would become a minister without portfolio.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett reached a compromise on the reshuffle Sunday night after mediation by a third party, a Likud statement said.

Jewish Home holds eight parliamentary seats, enough to block Netanyahu's proposed new line-up.

The deal creates what is seen by many as the most right-wing government in Israel's history.

Jewish Home had demanded the creation of a military liaison for the government's security cabinet, a smaller forum of cabinet members which decides on matters of national security.

Bennett says such a post is needed to avoid security cabinet members being kept in the dark on important developments, pointing to aspects of the 2014 conflict with Palestinian militants in Gaza, among other concerns.

Under the compromise brokered by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, of the United Torah Judaism alliance of ultra-Orthodox parties, security cabinet members will receive frequent personal briefings from Israel's National Security Council as an interim measure, while a committee of experts looks at ways to improve procedure.

While some analysts say such a change is needed, Bennett's demand is also seen as political manoeuvring ahead of the next general election, due by 2019 at the latest.

Bennett is widely seen as aspiring to replace Netanyahu, whose Likud party is currently the largest in parliament.

Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party will add five lawmakers to Netanyahu's previous razor-thin majority, giving it 66 of the 120 in parliament.

The move to hand the defence ministry to the 57-year-old hardliner sparked deep concern among Israeli centrist and left-wing politicians, as well as among some of Netanyahu's Likud colleagues.

Lieberman recently said he would give Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, 48 hours to hand over two detained Israeli civilians and the bodies of soldiers killed in the 2014 war "or you're dead".

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