New Israeli Government Threat to Regional Stability, Say Palestinians

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The appointment of a hardline right-winger as Israel's defense minister represents a "real threat" to regional stability, a senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

"The existence of this government brings a real threat of instability and extremism in the region," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP, adding that the appointment would "result in apartheid, racism and religious and political extremism."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Wednesday that Jewish settler Avigdor Lieberman would take over as defense minister, in which capacity he is responsible for implementing Israel's policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The appointment has raised fears over the government's further drift to the right, with Lieberman favoring the death penalty for the perpetrators of anti-Israeli attacks.

However on Wednesday he pledged himself to what he called a "responsible, reasonable policy."

Hamas, the Palestinian faction which rules the Gaza Strip and which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, also condemned Lieberman's appointment.

"The choice of Lieberman represents an increase in the racism and extremism of the Israeli occupation," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

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