How much more extremist?


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to appoint ultra hardliner Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister is alarming and provocative in the extreme.

Lieberman was added to the Netanyahu Cabinet after the resignation of defence minister Moshe Yaalon who accused Netanyahu of recruiting extremists in his government and railroading Israel into deeper hostility with the Palestinians.

“To my great dismay, extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel, also over the Likud Party, and are shaking the house and threatening to hurt its inhabitants,” said Yaalon.

“I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society that threatens its sturdiness and is seeping into the army and already damaging it.”

These words alone should give an inkling of where the Israeli society is heading and of the disarray in Netanyahu’s political kitchen.

Yaalon’s resignation and his replacement with Lieberman can be expected to widen the rift between Netanyahu and his security establishment, which recently accused the Israeli prime minister of deploying excessive force against the Palestinians.

The Israeli Cabinet reshuffle understandably worries the Palestinians.

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, was quoted by AFP as saying that the “existence of this government brings a real threat of instability and extremism”.

This is an understatement.

If the Israeli security agencies and the former Israeli minister of defence accuse Netanyahu of forming a Cabinet run by extremists and reckless Israelis, Palestinians are justified to express despair and fear about the future.

“This is a wrong appointment. To take the best man — the most fitting for the job — and demote him, and put in his place a person with political and other capabilities but completely lacking an experience in this field, is a mistake and an expression of faulty considerations,” said former defence minister Ehud Barak.

It is clear that Netanyahu does not have peace with the Palestinians in mind.

But if he thinks that more extremism will bring his country security, he is wrong.

The fires raging in the region could easily spread to Israel as long as it continues to deny the Palestinians their inalienable right to live in an independent state.

Israel cannot keep the Palestinians under subjugation forever.

The day will surely come when Israel will, on its own or forced, have to relinquish its occupation of another people.

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