English and Arabic names for cities and towns on road signs will be scrapped in favor of only the Hebrew terms, the Israeli transport ministry said Monday, while Britain imposed a partial arms embargo on Israel over the Gaza war.
In its latest efforts to enforce the Jewish character of the state, the right winged Israeli government is set to erase all traces of the Arabic and English languages from public signs.
"Minister Yisrael Katz took this decision that will be progressively applied," a ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
Currently Israeli road signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English, with the city names in each language. So Jerusalem is identified as Yerushalaim in Hebrew, Jerusalem in English and al-Quds in Arabic (along with Yerushalaim written in Arabic script).
Under the new policy the Holy City will only be identified as Yerushalaim in all three languages. Nazareth (al-Nasra in Arabic) will be identified as Natzrat and Jaffa (Jaffa in Arabic) will only be written as Yafo.
Katz told the mass-selling daily Yediot Aharonot that the move was a response to the Palestinian refusal to use Hebrew names for some Israeli towns.
"On Palestinian maps, Israeli towns are often still identified with the Arabic names used before the 1948 war" when Israel was created, he said.
Israel gave Hebrew names, often of biblical origin, to many villages, towns and areas that came under its control following the 1948 war.
Elections earlier this year brought a right-wing coalition to power that includes the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, which has demanded Israel's Arab minority demonstrate greater loyalty to the Jewish state.
Israel's 1.2 million Arab citizens account for 20 percent of its population and are descended from Palestinians who remained inside Israel following the 1948 war and the creation of the state.
Embargoed but defiant
Also on Monday Britain has cancelled the planned sale of some military components to Israel following an export review prompted by the December-January war in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli official said on Monday.
The "Foreign Office informed Israel's embassy in London of the sanctions a few days ago," Haaretz said, adding that the embassy attributed the move to pressure from human rights groups and MPs.
The move came after the government reviewed all 182 licenses for arms exports to Israel and ultimately decided to cancel five, which cover spare parts for Saar 4.5 missile boats, Haaretz said.
By participating in the Gaza war, the boats "violated the security agreements between Britain and Israel, which specify what uses may be made of British equipment," Haaretz quoted the directive as saying.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman brushed off the sanctions, telling public radio: "We've had many embargoes in the past...We can manage. This shouldn't bother us."
Israel launched its devastating three-week war on Gaza in December 2008. More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.