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Israeli environment minister resigns in protest of 'extremist government'

Center-right politician Avi Gabbay has stepped down as environment minister, saying the government has swung too far to the right. His resignation comes shortly after Prime Minister Netanyahu reshuffled his cabinet.

"The recent political maneuvering and defense minister's replacement are, in my view, grave actions that ignore what is important for the country's security and will bring about more extremism and rifts among the people," Gabbay said on Friday after resigning from the position of environment minister.

Gabbay, member of the center-right Kulanu party, resigned two days after Moshe Yaalon, a member of Netanyahu's conservative Likud party,

stepped down from the position of defense minister.

"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 … but I do not think it is right to form an extremist government," he added.

The ultra-nationalist

Avigdor Lieberman

, who has pledged harsh measures against Palestinian "terrorists," was named Israel's new defense minister.

Gabbay's resignation would not affect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition, which was getting a boost from five members of Lieberman's far-right Yisrael Beitenu party. The government now controls 66 of the parliament's 120 seats, up from 61.

Reacting to the latest developments, US officials said the new coalition raised "legitimate questions" about Israeli commitments to a two-state solution to the Palestine problem. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that Washington had "seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel's history."

mg/kms (Reuters, AP)

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