Israeli environment minister resigns over 'extremist government'

Israeli environment minister resigns over 'extremist government'
Israel's Environment Minister Avi Gabbay announced his resignation from the cabinet on Friday, saying the appointment of a hardline nationalist Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister has created an e'xtremist government'.
2 min read
27 May, 2016
Binyamin Netanyahu appointed hard-line nationalist Avigdor Lieberman [L] as Israel's defence minister [AFP]

Israel's environmental protection minister announced Friday his resignation following Tel Aviv's latest cabinet reshuffle.

Avi Gabbay cited the appointment of hard-line nationalist Avigdor Lieberman as Israel's defence minister on Wednesday, saying it has created an "extremist government".

Lieberman once called for the "beheading" of Palestinians.

Gabby said he is "unable to swallow" Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to replace Moshe Yaalon with Lieberman, who had pledged harsh measures against Palestinian "terrorists".

"I see the recent political moves and the replacement of the defence minister as grave acts that ignore what's important to national security, and will widen societal rifts," Israel daily Haaretz reported Gabby saying. "I cannot be partner to this line of action."

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

Gabby, of the centre-right Kulanu party, is not a member of parliament and his resignation does not affect the ruling right-wing 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, Israel's key ally, also expressed grave concern over Tel Aviv's commitment to peace following Lieberman's appointment.

US state department spokesman said the new government raises "legitimate questions" over the Netanyahu government's commitment to a two-station solution with the Palestinians.

Washington had "seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel's history", Mark Toner said. "And we also know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution."

Agencies contributed to this report.