Accessibility links

New Israeli FM Facing Backlash from Opposition, Corruption Allegations

Israel's new foreign minister is facing corruption allegations, as a well as a separate firestorm of criticism for comments about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

An Israeli police spokesman says Avigdor Lieberman was questioned for seven hours Thursday on suspicion of bribery and money laundering. The interrogation is part of an ongoing investigation. Lieberman has denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said remarks Lieberman made on Wednesday show the world that Israel is "not a partner" for peace.

Lieberman stirred Palestinian anger Wednesday when he said Israel is not bound by a 2007 U.S.-brokered pact on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that making concessions to the Palestinians will only result in more war.

During an interview with Israel Army Radio Thursday, Livni called on new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to distance himself from Lieberman's statements.

Lieberman continued to take a hard line in an interview published Thursday in Israel's Haaretz newspaper. The Israeli foreign minister ruled out any peace deal with Syria based on an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, saying "peace will only be in exchange for peace."

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood says U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Lieberman Wednesday to congratulate him on his new position. Wood said U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will travel to the region soon.

Wood also told reporters Thursday that the United States remains committed to pursuing the creation of a separate Palestinian state, alongside Israel. He did not say whether Clinton reiterated the U.S. position to Lieberman during Wednesday's phone call, but said the Israeli government is well aware of where the U.S. stands on the issue.

Palestinian and other Arab leaders have long been critical of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for his failure to endorse a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.