Israel's government under strain after Avi Maoz's resignation

Mr Maoz quit Netanyahu's administration citing shock at finding 'no serious intention' to implement coalition agreement

The funeral of two Israeli brothers is held in Jerusalem after they were killed by a suspected Palestinian gunman. Reuters
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A high-profile far-right politician has left the Israeli government accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not honouring promises made in a coalition deal.

Avi Maoz, the Noam party's sole representative in the Knesset, is known for his hardline stance on promoting conservative religious values, including revising the school curriculum and changing policy on an egalitarian prayer zone at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

As part of negotiations to form a government in November, Mr Netanyahu agreed to Mr Maoz's petition to form an authority on Jewish national identity. Although details about the office are unclear, Mr Maoz has expressed strong interest in changing education and immigration policy.

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister on Monday, Mr Maoz said that he was “shocked to find there was no serious intention of honouring the coalition deal”.

Despite resigning from his role as a deputy minister, Mr Maoz will remain in the 64-member coalition that makes up the ruling bloc in Israel's parliament.

The resignation adds to pressure on Mr Netanyahu at a time when other senior far-right ministers in the government are voicing concerns that their demands are not being respected.

Earlier in February, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir threatened to resign in three months' time if what he described as “lenient” government approaches to security issues were not scrapped, even if it meant destroying the coalition. Mr Ben-Gvir's policies include allowing the death penalty against terrorists and giving more powers to Israel's military.

This week, the Prime Minister faced further criticism from Mr Ben-Gvir's party, Otzma Yehudit, as well as others over his perceived failure to honour coalition deals.

A sharp rise in regional violence is also challenging Mr Netanyahu's administration.

On Monday, an Israeli-American was shot dead after a Palestinian opened fire near the city of Jericho, hours after Israel deployed hundreds more soldiers to the occupied West Bank amid escalating tension.

Elan Ganeles, 27, was raised in Connecticut and had served in the Israeli military.

“We condemn the horrific killing of two Israeli brothers near Nablus and the killing today of an Israeli near Jericho”, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

“We express our deepest condolences to all of the victims' families and their loved ones.”

Violence escalated on Sunday after a Palestinian killed two Israeli brothers and a large group of settlers torched Palestinian homes and cars in the West Bank town of Hawara.

It resulted in the death of one Palestinian and the wounding of dozens, according to medics and the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Six settlers were arrested by Israeli police, but four were released on Monday and the remaining two on Tuesday.

Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian West Bank town

Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian West Bank town

Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called for calm on Monday as he visited the site.

“It is neither legitimate nor possible to operate individually”, he said.

However, National Security Committee chief Zvika Fogel said Israel needed to “take the gloves off”.

“I want to restore security for the residents of the state of Israel”, he said. “How do we do that? We stop using the word ‘proportionality’. We stop with our objection to collective punishment.

“Yesterday, a terrorist came from Hawara. A closed, burnt Hawara. That’s what I want to see. That’s the only way to achieve deterrence … we need burning villages when the [military] doesn’t act.”

On Tuesday, the EU released a statement condemning Palestinian killings of Israelis and “the outbreak of settlers' violence, which resulted in the killing of one Palestinian, injuring of several hundreds of Palestinians and burning of houses and shops, causing the unacceptable destruction of Palestinian property.”

The UN Security Council will convene its third emergency meeting over violence in the West Bank since Mr Netanyahu came to power.

Updated: February 28, 2023, 1:00 PM