Following a lengthy session, the Knesset Plenum approved Monday night MK Avigdor Liberman`s appointment as Minister of Defense, with 55 MKs supporting the government`s request and 43 voting against it. One MK, Benny Begin (Likud), abstained.

The plenum also approved the appointment of MK Sofa Landver , of Liberman`s Yisrael Beitenu party, as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, and the appointment of MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) as a minister without portfolio. The new ministers were sworn in immediately after the vote.

During the debate, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) said, ”Minister (Naftali) Bennett (HaBayit HaYehudi) revealed to us that he and his fellow cabinet members are actually like scarecrows. Minister Bennett, on the eve of your entrance into the government you could have demanded different procedures for the cabinet. Suddenly you have found this out?”

Knesset approves MK Liberman`s appointment as Defense Minister

MK Avigdor Liberman is sworn in; Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz on the right)

”It all starts with the prime minister, Bibi (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud) the magician, who made hope, vision, internal unity and the direction which the country could have taken two weeks ago disappear,” Herzog said. ”He preferred to make (former Defense Minister Moshe) Ya`alon, (resigning Minister of Environmental Protection Avi) Gabbay disappear, and (former Minister) Gideon Sa`ar before that. It can be funny, but it can also be very frightening, sad and devastating.”

MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) said PM Netanyahu ”has targeted the Arab public in Israel” and has been ”competing with Liberman” since he said prior to the elections that ”The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.”

”Now that Liberman has joined the government,” Zahalka told the plenum, ”we will see the two of them compete to determine who is more extreme. Liberman will not be able to do things that are more terrible than what Ya`alon did, so he will opt for incitement and legislation against the Arab public, and of course against democracy and human rights. We previously had a government with one racist head, and now we will have a government with two racist heads.”

MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) said he agrees with Liberman on one thing, ”that the prime minister is a liar and a cheat.” Odeh added that he ”trusts the kids in the Jabalya and Qalandiya refugee camps to `take [Liberman] to school.`”

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp) said the ”government of extremists has finally gained stability,” while MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) told the plenum ”we should examine why the prime minister did not want this government to begin with, and why he continued to do everything so that the ministers will not know or understand the material that has already been submitted to them.”