JERUSALEM: Defense Minister Amir Peretz, leader of Israel s Labor Party, has chosen Arab lawmaker Raleb Majadele to be a Cabinet minister, Israeli media reported Wednesday.
Majadele would be the second Israeli Arab to serve in the Cabinet. Salah Tarif, a Druse leader, served nine months as a minister without portfolio before resigning in January 2002 because of a corruption investigation against him.
Majadele would replace Ophir Pines-Paz as minister of culture, science and sport. Pines-Paz resigned Oct. 30 to protest the addition of hard-liner Avigdor Lieberman to the Cabinet.
Majadele, 53, is the chairman of the parliament s environment committee. He lives in the town of Baka al-Gharbiyeh, next to the line with the West Bank in northern Israel.
It s great news for the Arab public, Majadele told Channel 2 TV.
It s a correct step in the direction of equality. We have many challenges ahead of us. Pines-Paz is among those challenging Peretz for the Labor Party leadership, and Israeli media said the selection of an Israeli Arab appeared to be an attempt by Peretz to attract support from Labor s Arab members ahead of party primaries in May.
Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel s population of 7 million.
Labor is the second-largest party in Israel s coalition government, led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert s Kadima Party.
The Cabinet and parliament must approve Majadele s appointment.