Justice Ministry may investigate Israel Beiteinu MK for remarks she made last month about Isreali-Arab MK Ghaleb Majadle.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman chose his closest ally in the party, Estherina Tartman, to become the party's second cabinet minister at a meeting of his faction on Sunday.
The Justice Ministry said Sunday it was deliberating whether to investigate Tartman for remarks she made last month about Labor MK Ghaleb Majadle.
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Tartman will become tourism minister, pending the approval of the Knesset next week. Lieberman chose MK Stas Meseznikov for the second position the party received in Thursday's cabinet reshuffle, the chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee.
Tartman was chosen over MK Yisrael Hasson, No. 2 on the party's list.
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Lieberman said he hoped his party would eventually be given another portfolio, which would be given to Hasson.
"Had we received a security portfolio, then Hasson would have been given the job," he told reporters at the meeting, "and had we received the Absorption portfolio, someone else would have been appointed. But for a financial portfolio like Tourism, [Tartman] was the most fitting. She was in the party from the beginning and has remained loyal to the party."
MK Robert Ilatov will replace Tartman as the faction chairperson.
Tartman told reporters she had received the tourism portfolio because of her economic background as a former bank deputy director-general and her experience in marketing.
"I hope I can do the best job possible and succeed," she said. "I will meet with [outgoing minister Isaac] Herzog soon to learn from him so I can deliver the goods." Herzog is to become social affairs minister.
Asked whether she would have a problem working with Majadle, the incoming science, culture and sport minister, she said she "had nothing personal against Majadle" and that "he will do his job, and I will do mine."
Tartman caused a storm last month when, in an interview with Israel Radio, she called the appointment of Majadle, an Arab, "a huge axe poised over the neck of Zionism in the Jewish state" and referred to Israeli Arabs as a "plague."
United Arab List-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi said "the government has become a refuge for racists." He said Tartman's appointment was "an axe blow to sanity and tolerance."
Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan called the appointment "a sad day for Israeli politics." "When racism comes in through the government's front door, we can only hope she won't chase away potential tourists," he said.
Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer called the appointment "shameful" and said Tartman would "present the ugly face of Israel to the world."
Majadle said he would not comment on Tartman's appointment, calling it an internal Israel Beiteinu matter.
The cabinet on Sunday approved the appointments of Tartman, Majadle and Herzog. The appointments will come to a vote in the Knesset next Tuesday.
Tartman has medical documents stating that she is unable to work more than four hours a day, and that the disability is permanent, Channel 2 reported Sunday.
Tartman was seriously injured in a car accident 10 years ago, and her ability to listen, remember and concentrate were affected. As a result, the Haifa District Court ruled that she had permanently lost 40 percent of her earning potential, and by the time she retires will have lost some NIS 1 million.
Tartman appealed to the Supreme Court to increase her disability compensation, mainly on the basis of loss of future earning potential.
Approximately 14 months ago, the court ruled in her favor, and she now receives 52% disability.
After the accident, Tartman resigned from work, claiming she was unable to fulfill her duties. However, her insurance company said she had resigned to enter politics.
After becoming a candidate for the Knesset, Tartman allegedly said, "The Knesset is an easy job, not a steady [stream] of work, and mainly talk." She described her physical condition by saying she "pretended that everything was all right, but when [no one] sees, I collapse."
In response to the Channel 2 report, Tartman said, "Unfortunately, 10 years ago I was in a car accident that has caused me pain ever since. I hope to be an example to many people that despite a body in pain, the spirit can remain strong and stable."
She said she took pride in not allowing her handicap to limit her functioning.
Sheera Claire Frenkel and Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.
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