The government will be asked on Sunday to approve the appointment of Labor Knesset Member Raleb Majadele as minister, Israel's first Muslim cabinet member.
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 completed an anticipated reshuffling of the government over the course of the next few weeks.
Officials close to the PM stressed Saturday that Olmert is not planning to dismiss Defense Minister Amir Peretz from his post, despite widespread rumors suggesting the contrary.
Peretz himself has made it clear that he will refuse to give up the Defense Ministry on his own accord.
Ramon trial key to appointment
One of the main problems of the anticipated reshuffle will be the appointment of a permanent Justice Minister. While the position is currently being filled by Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi, she is uninterested in keeping the portfolio, which was given to her in late November after then-Justice Minister Haim Ramon was indicted for forcibly kissing a female soldier. Ramon's trial is expected to come to an end on Wednesday. Should he be exonerated, say officials in the PM's office, the Justice portfolio will be waiting for him. However if Ramon is convicted, Olmert will have to decide which minister will take over permanently.
Olmert may also have to factor in demands coming from Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman's party, Israel Our Home, which is demanding a second cabinet portfolio for one of its 11 Knesset members. Olmert believes that Israel Our Home's demands are reasonable seeing as Shas, with 12 MKs, has four government ministers. The PM is unlikely however to agree to Lieberman's request to also receive chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee.