Israeli minister quits 'extremist government'

2016-05-27 14:00
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon, Pool via AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (Gali Tibbon, Pool via AP)

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Jerusalem - Israeli environment minister Avi Gabbay announced his resignation on Friday, saying the appointment of a hardline nationalist as defense minister had created an "extremist government".

Gabbay said that he was "unable to swallow" PM Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to take the defense portfolio from former general Moshe Yaalon and hand it to Avigdor Lieberman, who has pledged harsh measures against Palestinian "terrorists".

Yaalon resigned from the government a week ago in protest, warning of a rising tide of extremism in the party and the country as a whole.

"I could not accept the removal of Yaalon, a professional defense minister," Gabbay said.

"The country has the right to have a rightwing government," he added. "But I do not think it is right to form an extremist government.

"Recent political events and the changing of the defence minister are to me grave events which ignore what is important to state security and will cause further extremism in society."

Gabbay, of the center-right Kulanu party, is not a member of parliament and his resignation does not affect the ruling rightwing coalition's majority.

Co-opting Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu party will add five lawmakers to Netanyahu's previously wafer-thin majority if the coalition deal is given parliamentary approval next week as expected.

The US has said that the new coalition raises "legitimate questions" about the Netanyahu government's commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner, in a rare comment on Israeli internal politics, said on Wednesday that Washington had "seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel's history".

"And we also know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution," he said.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel

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