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Israeli minister resigns in protest of Lieberman's appointment as defense minister

May 27, 2016 10:28 A.M. (Updated: May 29, 2016 12:47 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli minister announced his resignation on Friday in response to the ultra-right Yisrael Beytenu party joining the government coalition and the appointment of right-wing Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister.

Calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to appoint Lieberman as defense minister while expanding his coalition to include the Yisrael Beytenu party “a step that he couldn’t live with,” Minister of Environmental Protection and founding member of the Kulanu party Avi Gabai resigned from his position in the government.

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

However, since Gabai is not a member of the Israeli Knesset his decision will not affect the size of the new right-wing coalition.

Gabai’s decision comes just one week after the resignation of former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and his decision to remove himself entirely from the political scene in Israel.

Lieberman, who formerly served as foreign minister and resides in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, has advocated policies ranging from the overthrow of the Palestinian Authority to the deportation of Palestinian citizens of Israel into the occupied Palestinian territory, while promoting the transfer of towns in Israel that are heavily populated by Palestinians to a future Palestinian state in exchange for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Lieberman is currently heading a proposal to impose the death penalty on “terrorists” who are tried in military courts, essentially designing a law that would impose the penalty of death on Palestinians, who are prosecuted in military courts, while excluding Israelis, who are prosecuted in civil courts.

In March, after a video was released of an Israeli soldier shooting a wounded Palestinian execution-style in the head, Lieberman publicly defended the soldier even as Yaalon and the Israeli military condemned the soldier’s actions, as he accused the right-wing Likud party of being “presenters” for B’Tselem, a well-known Israeli human rights group advocating against human rights abuses carried out by Israeli forces in the occupied territory.

Lieberman has also threatened to assassinate Hamas leaders, notably declaring in 2014 that murdering Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal would be the only way to deter future tunnel construction in the besieged Gaza Strip.

His appointment to the post of defense minister has been widely condemned by international critics and government officials in the Knesset, as the decision comes at a time when increasingly nationalist views are becoming mainstream in the Israeli public arena, with many concerned over the extreme polarization already evident in Israeli society.
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