The Israeli Cabinet voted overwhelmingly Oct. 30 to bring the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party into the government.

Only Labor Party minister Ophir Pines-Paz opposed Yisrael Beiteinu’s inclusion. The decision gives Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition a commanding parliamentary majority of 78 out of 120 seats.

After being badly weakened by last summer’s Lebanon war, Olmert agreed to bring in the extreme right-wing party, which won 11 seats in the Israeli elections earlier this year, to shore up his shaky coalition.

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman will be deputy prime minister in charge of “strategic threats” and is expected to be influential in shaping policies toward Iran.

The Yisrael Beiteinu party, whose base includes many Russians immigrants, opposes returning occupied territory to the Palestinians and wants to redraw Israel’s borders to exclude many of the country’s Arab citizens.

“Israel’s number one fascist has been upgraded to deputy prime minister and minister,” noted Arab Israeli legislator Ahmed Tibi.

He said that Lieberman’s appointment was a message to the entire Arab world that “this government advocates rejectionism and the absence of a political process,” reported the UK-based Morning Star.

Ali Abunimah, writing at the Electronic Intifada, called Lieberman’s access to power “a frightening but long expected move.”

“Lieberman has a long history of inciting discrimination, hatred and violence against Palestinians within the Jewish state and living under Israeli military occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” Abunimah wrote.

Citing an article that appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in 2002, Abunimah noted, “When he served as minister of transport in a previous government, Lieberman called for all Palestinian prisoners held by the Israeli occupation authorities to be drowned in the Dead Sea and offered to provide the buses.”

He said Lieberman advocates stripping the citizenship of and expelling any Palestinian citizen of Israel who refuses to sign a loyalty oath to Israel as a Jewish Zionist state.

Abunimah quoted Hebrew University Professor Ze’ev Sternhell, a leading Israeli academic specialist on fascism, in the Scotsman newspaper characterizing Lieberman as “perhaps the most dangerous politician in the history of the state of Israel.”

Abunimah, noting that new deputy minister has advocated the massive bombardment of Palestinian commercial centers, gas stations and banks in the occupied territories, said Lieberman also “proposed bombing Egypt’s Aswan Dam, despite that country’s peace treaty with Israel since 1979.”

“What will he propose to do to Iran?” he asked.

Olmert claimed that Yisrael Beiteinu’s participation would not result in any changes to government policy. However, he also said that Israel planned to expand its military offensive in the Gaza Strip and would decide soon on what kind of operation to conduct.

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