“Israel is a Western liberal democracy and as such its public space is open and safe for all, men and women," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting. "There is no place in [Israel] for discrimination. The police will continue to arrest all those who spit, raise their hand, and harass.”

Netanyahu's statement came as the issue of the status of women has drawn the attention of the Israeli public in the wake of a number of recent incidents.

On Saturday night, an ultra-Orthodox man was arrested on suspicion of cursing and spitting at a religious woman in the central Israeli town of Beit Shemesh last week.

Before Sunday's cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that what was happening in Beit Shemesh and other places was very serious.

“This is a case of religious extremists trying to enforce certain behavior on the public and this is unacceptable," Barak said. "All law enforcement agencies should work together to put an end to it.”

At the meeting, Netanyahu called on government offices and law enforcement authorities to remove signs that call of women to use the other side of the street.

Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau said: “Haredi extremists should be dealt with like leftist anarchists and right-wing settler youth - decisively.”

Netanyahu is to meet on Sunday with ultra-Orthodox politicians to ask them to speak out against the segregation of women in public places by extremists in the Haredi community.

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