Naftali Bennett cancels UK visit following Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation
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Naftali Bennett cancels UK visit following Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation

Israeli minister makes drastic move after defence secretary quit on Wednesday in reaction to the Gaza ceasefire

Naftali Bennet. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90
Naftali Bennet. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

Israeli minister Naftali Bennett has cancelled his forthcoming visit to the UK after the resignation of Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman threw Israeli politics into turmoil.

Bennett, who leads the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party, yesterday told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would only continue to prop up the ruling coalition government if his party was given the defence ministry.

The internal political wrangling took place after a huge spike in violence from Gaza and amid widespread speculation that Lieberman’s withdrawal – leaving the government with only a slender majority – would facilitate new Israeli elections.

Bennett, a staunch opponent of any Palestinian state who opposed this week’s truce with Hamas, is the Israeli minister for education and for diaspora affairs, and had been due to speak to a Finchley audience on Tuesday evening.

The event, sponsored by Jewish News and organised by the Zionist Federation, was to have been hosted by ITV’s international affairs correspondent Rageh Omaar.

Bennett had also been due to speak to students and a think-tank, but on Thursday a spokesman said: “Sadly the political situation [in Israel] means the Minister won’t be able to make the visit as planned.”

ZF chair Paul Charney said: “It is a real pity that this event and the visit was cancelled, but it was due to circumstances outside of our control. This was a popular event and one that we will look to hold in the future.”

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