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Friday, January 12, 2007

Labor holds phone vote on Majdaleh

Labor holds phone vote on Majdaleh

In wake of the political waves caused by Defense Minister and Labor party chairman Amir Peretz's decision to name Labor MK Ghaleb Majdaleh (a Muslim Arab) as Culture, Science, and Sport Minister in place of MK Ophir Paz-Pines, members of Labor's central committee were asked on Friday to vote on Majdaleh's appointment - by phone.

Late Friday afternoon, committee members were contacted by an automated telephone service and asked to press the button that corresponded to their vote: for, against, or abstain.

Some Labor party officials called the telephone vote a "delusional" initiative by Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel, and accused Cabel of attempting to circumvent the expenditure that a convention of the central committee to vote on Majdaleh's appointment would incur.

"What would happen if my son answered the telephone - will he vote in my place?" one Labor source asked.

Cabel said in response that the telephone vote would save the party an essential NIS 100,000.

Majdaleh's appointment has raised controversy all along the political spectrum. Right-wing politicians, such as Yisrael Beitenu MK Esterina Tartman, objected in principle to the appointment of a Muslim Arab to a cabinet post. Tartman warned on Thursday that the move would bring about the destruction of Zionism and declared that it marked the "beginning of the destruction of the Jewish people.

Labor MKs and ministers, while voicing no objection to Majdaleh on the basis of his ethnicity, insisted that Peretz's decision was "cynical," and timed to improve his standing among Labor's Arab voter base as the party's leadership race gathers momentum.

"The dirty deal of Peretz and Majadleh is a new record in cynicism and insulting the intelligence of Israeli voters," Paz-Pines said. "It proves how low the party has fallen, that it has lost its path, and that it must go through a transformation or it will lose its right to exist and vanish from the political map. It's proper that Israel have an Arab minister but this appointment was made solely to aid Peretz's re-election campaign."

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