Friday, January 12, 2007

The Arab Minister

As Jonathan Edelstein noted, Labor leader Amir Peretz made history by naming Arab Muslim Ghalib Majadele as Minister of Science, Culture and Sports. History may consider this a milestone, but not everyone is enthusiastic. Yisrael Beiteinu MK Esterina Tartman called the move a lethal blow to Zionism. If as Edelstein suggests Peretz was trying to win Arab support in May's Labor primary, this step may have back-fired, as many in the party are now calling for a withdrawal from the coalition over Tartman's comments, which are being condemned across the political spectrum. In addition, Arab MK Nawaf Masalha has withdrawn his support of Peretz, presumably over not being chosen himself, and there may also be disgruntlement among Druze over Peretz's passing over of Shakib Shanan.

YB Chairman Avigdor Lieberman has said he will vote in favor of the appointment, which probably serves his interest in countering claims he is a simple-minded bigot. If his continuing shrewd moves do benefit him politically, it will make the increasingly bad relations between Israeli Jews and Muslims even worse. Just in the past few days we've seen this explosion at the same time the Justice Ministry considers a bill to allow denaturalization of citizens who visit enemies of Israel, one which will affect Arabs more than Jews, and Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi tells a Fatah rally to "continue the struggle," which many interpret as an endorsement of terrorism. Israel may not be the South Africa some claim, but all is not well even among those who claim Israeli citizenship.


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