Ultra-conservative Israeli minister quits, will back Netanyahu in parliament

By - Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An ultra-conservative Jewish politician on Monday said he was resigning from his role in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government after failing to advance his agenda, but that he would still support the coalition in parliament.

Avi Maoz, whose Noam party had one of the Knesset's 120 seats, was made a deputy minister in Netanyahu's office as part of the coalition sworn in on Dec. 29, with responsibilities for encouraging stringent observance of Jewish law in the country.

His inclusion shook Israel's once-dominant secular liberals, who have been holding weekly mass-demonstrations against reforms sought by Netanyahu to curb the power of the Supreme Court.

"To my amazement, I discovered that there is no serious intent to implement the coalition agreement regarding the administration of national Jewish identity," Maoz said in a resignation letter circulated to Israeli media.

"I will fulfil my duty as a regular Knesset member in the coalition," he added.

Netanyahu commands a 64-seat parliamentary majority. But cracks have appeared in the support of his powerful far-right partners, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Both chafed at Netanyahu envoys' undertaking, at a Jordania-hosted security meeting with Palestinians on Sunday, to hold off on any new announcements regarding Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in the coming months.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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