JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's defense minister revoked on Wednesday the VIP entry permit of the Palestinian Authority's outreach liaison to Israeli society on Wednesday, on charges that he committed "subversive political activities."
The Defense Ministry says Avigdor Lieberman revoked the permit of Mohammed Al-Madani because he tried to create a political party that included Arab citizens of Israel and Mizrahi Jews, or those of Middle Eastern descent. The VIP permit allowed Al-Madani to enter Israeli territory without long waits at checkpoints.
Al-Madani said he met with hundreds of Israelis across the political spectrum in an attempt to reactivate the moribund peace process and reach a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He denied he was starting a party.
In an announcement issued in Hebrew, Al-Madani said the cancellation of his permit exposes the "racist character ... Lieberman brought to the Israeli defense ministry."
Moroccan-born Reuven Abergel, a longtime Mizrahi activist, called Lieberman's announcement "patronizing." He said he met with Al-Madani two years ago to discuss peace, but not to found a party.
"A democratic state doesn't shut its people's mouths and prevent them from creating dialogue," he said.
The firebrand Lieberman was appointed last month to replace Moshe Yaalon, a former military chief of staff who was forced out after siding with his commanders in disagreements with political hawks.
Lieberman lives in a West Bank settlement and is an outspoken skeptic of the peace process with the Palestinians. He has advocated shifting Israel's borders to incorporate West Bank settlements and exclude areas with large numbers of Arab citizens. He also led a failed attempt to require Israel's Arab citizens to take a loyalty oath, and said Arab citizens who meet with members of the militant Islamic group Hamas should be executed.
He was appointed as Israel contends with a nine-month wave of Palestinian shooting, stabbing and vehicular attacks that have killed 32 Israelis and two Americans. Some 200 Palestinians have died in that time, the majority of whom Israel says were attackers.
On Wednesday, Israel's parliament approved a tougher anti-terrorism law. The law designates calling for an act of terrorism a criminal offense. Previous laws required law enforcement to prove there was a concrete possibility of an attack. The new law also allows the defense minister to seize property from suspected terrorists and strengthens the punishment for threatening to commit an act of terrorism.
"Unfortunately, from the day of our founding and even before we are in a struggle against terrorism," said lawmaker Nissan Slomiansky, who presented the bill. "This is a law from the field, and it has great importance."
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the municipality said it approved the construction of a new three-story building for Jews in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The move was denounced by the Palestinians, who say encouraging settlement in the area is an obstacle to peace.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it, a move not recognized by the international community. Israel considers all of Jerusalem its eternal, undivided capital. In a statement, the municipality said it "will continue to build in all neighborhoods."
The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, home to most of the city's Arab population as well as key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as the capital of their hoped-for state.
"More facts on the ground mean more obstacles to peace," said Ahmad Rowadi, a Palestinian official.
Some 200,000 Jews live in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem that the Palestinians and the international community consider illegal settlements. About 300,000 Arabs live in that part of the city.
The new building is part of a broader phenomenon in recent years that has seen Jews move into Arab areas like Silwan in a bid to make dividing the city more difficult. Hundreds of Jews now live in heavily-guarded enclaves among tens of thousands of Palestinians, where their presence often enflames tensions.