Avigdor Lieberman 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman will vote in Sunday's cabinet meeting in favor of the appointment of Israel's first Arab and first Arab minister, Ghaleb Majadle, as Science, Culture and Sports minister.
Lieberman said he had no problem with Majadle, who he described as loyal to the state of Israel. He said his problem was with the timing of Labor chairman Amir Peretz's decision to appoint him, four months before the May 28 Labor leadership race.
"Had Majadle's appointment been made immediately after MK Ophir Paz-Pines's resignation, I wouldn't have had a problem with it at all," Lieberman said. "But because of the timing, Peretz was promoting himself, not equality. He should resign."
The appointment is expected to pass easily in the Knesset on Monday after Israel Beiteinu decided to vote in favor. Faction chairwoman Estherina Tartman said she would vote in favor of Majadle, despite her ideological opposition to an Arab serving in the Israeli cabinet.
"Peretz fell to rock bottom to promote his primary campaign and sacrificed Zionism, crossing all red lines," Tartman told Israel Radio. "Majadle, are you so foolish to allow people to use you? You know they want you not because your skills or abilities but because you're an Arab. It's shameful and pitiful. Israel is a Zionist state. This is a huge axe poised over the neck of Zionism in the Jewish state."
Meretz leader Yossi Beilin asked Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz to investigate whether Tartman's comments broke the law. The chairman of Labor's young guard, attorney Eran Hermoni, asked Mazuz to rule Israel Beiteinu illegal as a racist party.
Labor leadership candidate Danny Yatom said he would draft the necessary signatures to convene the Labor central committee to consider leaving the coalition if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not remove Israel Beiteinu.
Minister-without-Portfolio Eitan Cabel, who is Labor's secretary-general said Labor should remain in the coalition. "Ghaleb will be in the government and that's Tartman's problem," Cabel said.
Peretz said that after hearing Israel Beiteinu's reaction to the appointment, he was even more satisfied with it than before.
"Any appointment I could have made would have been viewed as political," Peretz told the Labor executive committee on Thursday at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters.
Majadle said the appointment would improve Peretz's standing among Arabs and increase his chances of getting reelected Labor leader. He said he didn't like the fact that he would be part of a cabinet that included Lieberman and a coalition that included Tartman, but he was pressured by his constituents to take the job.
"I am sorry to hear what she said," Majadle said. "It reflects badly on the Jewish people that is supposed to be moderate and enlightened. The sane voice of Jews must be heard in reaction to her."