Israeli minister quits ‘extremist government’

Israeli minister quits ‘extremist government’

JERUSALEM – Agence France-Presse
Israeli minister quits ‘extremist government’

Israeli Environment Protection Minister Avi Gabbay delivers a speech during the inauguration of France's EDF Energies Nouvelles Zmorot solar plant facility near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon May 22, 2016 - REUTERS photo

Israeli environment minister Avi Gabbay announced his resignation on May 27, saying the appointment of a hardline nationalist as defense minister had created an “extremist government.”

Gabbay said that he was “unable to swallow” Prime Minister 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 right-wing government,” he added. “But I do not think it is right to form an extremist government.

“Recent political events and the changing of the defense 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 United States has said that the new coalition raises “legitimate questions” about the Netanyahu government’s commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, in a rare comment on Israeli internal politics, said May 25  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.