'Proud Druse Israeli' to replace Sneh in Knesset

Highest-seeded Druse rep on Labor's Knesset list touted to replace MK Sneh; supports Peretz.

druse 224.88 (photo credit: Sarah Levin)
druse 224.88
(photo credit: Sarah Levin)
For Shakib Shanan, three times may be the charm. The highest-seeded Druse representative on Labor's Knesset list seems to be a shoe-in to replace resigning Labor MK Efraim Sneh in the fractious party. But if there is one lesson that can be drawn from Shanan's political career, it is that likely candidates do not always make it into one of the coveted 120 seats in the Knesset plenum. During the parliamentary elections of March 2006, Shanan, who holds the No. 20 spot - reserved for a Druse representative - on the Labor list, seemed to have won a seat in the Knesset by a tiny margin. The votes were so close, in fact, that he was included in initial lists of incoming Labor MKs - but at the last moment, Labor lost a few dozen critical votes, and its representation in the Knesset slid to 19. After the elections, Labor filed a lawsuit, claiming that electoral irregularities in some Arab communities had swayed the balance of votes. Had that suit met with success, Shanan would have been granted his sought-after seat. Less than one year later, Shanan tried again - this time encouraging a Labor minister to resign his Knesset seat to clear the way for the lone Druse representative - but to no avail. Shanan, who was a key supporter of then-party chairman Amir Peretz during the elections, hoped that after the resignation of MK Ophir Paz-Pines from the head of the Science, Culture and Sport Ministry, Peretz would find a way to clear either the ministry or a Knesset seat for him. However, after narrowly losing a key policy vote in January 2007 that would allow the Labor central committee to chose replacement ministers, Shanan lost out on the ministry to MK Ghaleb Majadle. During a stormy central committee meeting, Shanan stormed the stage and took the podium, but later apologized for his actions and expressed his support for Majadele, who represents the party's Israeli Arab electorate. Shanan, 57, is a father of five and a resident of the Upper Galilee town of Hurfeish. Prior to his Knesset run, he worked as the director of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry's Northern District and then as an adviser to then-interior minister Paz-Pines. The man who describes himself as a "proud Druse Israeli" and "the son of a man who was a simple farmer who worked in the fields all of his life" joined the Labor Party in 1982, when he finished his army service and enrolled in Tel Aviv University. Since his earliest days as a student activist, he has been involved with the party, particularly as a representative of Druse and Cirassian voters. The Peretz supporter has a long list of social causes that are near to his heart, including housing shortages facing young couples, the rights of minority populations in Israel and the rights of the disabled and other underrepresented sectors of society.