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Former Israeli defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer dies at 80

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Israeli defense minister and veteran politician who once served as his country's pointman with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, died on Sunday. He was 80.

Ben-Eliezer had been in poor health for several years and retired from politics under a cloud in 2014.

He was charged last year with taking bribes, money laundering, fraud and tax offences related to allegations that he received payments from businessmen while serving in government. The trial, which Ben-Eliezer did not attend because of his health problems, was under way when he died.

A former leader of Israel's Labour Party, Ben-Eliezer served as defense minister in then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government from 2001 to 2002, during the early days of a Palestinian uprising.

The Iraqi-born Ben-Eliezer was widely regarded as the Israeli politician closest to Mubarak, who was toppled as Egypt's president in an uprising in 2011, and served as one of his country's main liaisons with the autocratic leader. Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979.

In a condolence statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, using Ben-Eliezer's nickname, said: "Fuad served his country for dozens of years as a warrior, commander, public official and senior cabinet minister."

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Helen Popper)


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