(photo credit: Channel 10)
Arguing that a majority must do everything to make a minority "feel good," newly elected Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz said Saturday he would not rule Arabs out of his coalition.
"The Arabs will not be ruled out of any coalition," Peretz said during an interview with Channel 2. "If an Arab agrees to be a minister in the government, it would decrease tensions in the country. I think a Jewish majority must do everything so that the minority feels good, because a majority must justify its presence as a majority by treating the minority well."
To date, there has never been an Arab party in the coalition.
Saleh Tarif, a Druse MK, served as minister in Sharon's government from 2001-2002 and former MK Nawaf Masalha served as deputy foreign minister under former prime minister Ehud Barak and as deputy health minister under Yitzhak Rabin.
"First let's see him get into the government," said MK Muhammed Barakeh (Hadash). "This was an important statement, but said prematurely."
The comment aroused the ire of several MKs, including Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar, who said that Peretz's statement exposed "extremist plans."
"Peretz's intent to set up a coalition with Arab, anti-Zionist parties symbolizes the fall of Zionism and morality in the Labor Party, which would want to set up a government with Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara," Sa'ar said, listing two Arab MKs.
MK Yuval Steinetz, who serves as chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, also criticized Peretz.
"It's scary to see a new chairman of Labor, who wishes to lead Israel, ignoring Israel's security and foreign affairs problems in his speeches and interviews."