April 2, 2009 / 5:18 PM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX - Israel's Avigdor Lieberman

(Reuters) - Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s new foreign minister, was questioned by police on Thursday on suspicion of bribery and money laundering as part of a long-running corruption investigation, police said.

Here are some details about Lieberman, leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party:

* The Soviet-born ultranationalist became Israel’s foreign minister on Tuesday and the next day said new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning government would not be bound by U.S.-backed understandings on a Palestinian state.

* He quit Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition in January 2008 in protest at U.S.-sponsored talks with the Palestinians.

* He has rejected sharing Jerusalem with a Palestinian state and withdrawing from West Bank settlements like Nokdim, where he has lived since 1988 with his wife Ella, with whom he has a daughter and two sons.

* He questions the loyalties of Israel’s Arab citizens and rhetoric widely seen as anti-Arab has alarmed Palestinians but won him a large following beyond his original Russian-speaking power base.

* Born Evet Lieberman in the Soviet city of Kishinev, now Chisinau, capital of Moldova, on June 5, 1958, he studied agriculture. His father Lev was a Red Army veteran imprisoned by the Germans and then under Stalin, spending seven years in a Siberian Gulag labour camp.

* With his parents, who met in Siberia, Lieberman emigrated to Israel in 1978, aged 20, part of an early influx of Soviet Jews. Changing his name to Avigdor, he added Hebrew to his native Russian. He also speaks English and Romanian.

* He served as an army corporal, took a social science degree and worked as an airport baggage handler and nightclub bouncer. He began his career as a student activist in the right-wing Likud party of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

* He ran Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office from 1996 to 1997. Frustrated with coalition politics, he founded Yisrael Beitenu (Our Home is Israel) in 1999, calling for a peace deal with the Palestinians under which Israel would swap land on which many of its 1.5 million Arab citizens live for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

* He served in three governments from 2001 to 2008.

(Reporting by Jerusalem Newsroom, additional writing and editing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit))

Sources: www.knesset.gov.il; ndi.org.il; www.dorledor.info

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