Last update - 20:05 14/01/2007
PM: Appointment of Israeli Arab minister is a positive event
By Mazal Moualem, Gideon Alon and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the appointment of Israeli Arab Labor MK Raleb Majadele as Minister of Science, Technology, Culture and Sports would a positive event long time in the making.
Olmert said that over the next few days he intends to complete manning the Labor party and Yisrael Beiteinu portfolios in order to boost their representations in the government, as is worthy of parties of their size.
Earlier Sunday, aides to Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz on Sunday accused Olmert of acting against Peretz' interests in the Labor party by postponing Majadele's appointment to the position of minister.
According to the aides, Olmert turned down a request to discuss the appointment at Sunday's cabinet meeting in order to help former prime minister Ehud Barak to gain Labor's leadership. Majadele's appointment will be brought before the cabinet for approval next week.
Haaretz reported recently that Olmert is seeking to replace Peretz with Barak as defense minister. On Sunday, Peretz' cronies accused Olmert of trying to "meddle with the Labor Party's internal affairs" in postponing the approval of Majadele's appointment.
Peretz believes that the sooner Majadele is appointed, the easier it would be for him to register Arab constituents as party members who would vote for him in the party leadership primaries, scheduled for May. The registration of Labor members will end January 31, and Peretz, facing a defeat according to recent polls, sees great importance in the Arab constituency.
Olmert aides said he postponed Majadele's appointment because he learned about it from the media while on an official visit to China, only a day after Peretz announced it. In addition, Peretz refused to discuss the appointment with Olmert on the phone despite several attempts by the prime minister to do so.
Peretz aides say that he submitted his request to appoint Majadele on Thursday, according to procedure.
At the cabinet meeting Sunday, Olmert said that the appointment of an Arab minister for the first time in Israeli history is "a highly important and timely event." He added that he intends to finalize the new appointments of Labor and Yisrael Beitenu ministers this week, and that the representation of these parties "must be adequately enhanced."