The cabinet on Sunday morning approved the appointment
of Israel's first Muslim Arab minister, Knesset Member Raleb Majadele (Labor).
Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman was the only cabinet member to oppose the move.
Majadele will first be appointed as a minister without a portfolio and is expected to later receive control of either the Welfare Ministry or the Ministry of Science, Technology and Sports after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
completes an anticipated government reshuffle over the course of the next few weeks.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz
said that the appointment was “a significant, historic step towards equality and peace in the region. MK Majadele's portfolio will be determined in discussions between the prime minister and myself."
Addressing Lieberman's objection to the appointment, aides to Peretz said that "the truth has been exposed and it is completely clear that Lieberman's remarks are racist."
Talking to Ynet, Lieberman said he opposed the appointment because it would serve Peretz's interests during the Labor Party primary elections.
"I have no problem with an Arab minister, but it is not my job to help Amir Peretz with the primaries. I have a problem with the way it was done and with the timing. I have no reason to support Majadele because he personally voted against Israel Our Home's inclusion to the coalition."
However, Lieberman made it clear that he would not oppose Majadele's appointment as minister of science.
“I had no problem voting for Majadele a week after (former Minister) Pines-Paz resigned, because maybe then there was a claim for general concern for the Arab sector. I call for Peretz’s resignation as defense minister, he isn’t worthy,” Lieberman said.
Minister Eitan Cabel (Labor) said following the meeting, "I am proud that Israel's first Arab minister came from the Labor Party."
Labor faction chairman MK Yoram Marciano congratulated the government’s decision to appoint MK Raleb Majadele minister.
“This is a historic move that will promote the partnership and brotherhood between Jews and Arabs in Israel. His appointment comes as a unequivocal response to the racist statements by Avigdor Lieberman and members of Israel Our Home in recent weeks,” Marciano said.
MK Nadia Hilou (Labor) also congratulated her fellow faction member on his appointment, saying that “today we have advanced a further step towards equality for the Arab population."