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Saturday, 3 March, 2001, 02:13 GMT
Analysis: Balancing right with left
Salah Tarif
Israel is set to get its first Arab cabinet minister
By the BBC's Nick Childs

The inclusion of two ultra-nationalist parties in Mr Sharon's government will give him some extra breathing space in terms of a majority in the Knesset.

But it could complicate the prime minister-elect's relationship with the Labour Party, which, after much political soul-searching, agreed to join his coalition.

Labour advocates of the coalition say it is already moderating Mr Sharon's own views, whilst the critics are sceptical.

But Mr Sharon's aides insist all those involved agree on the principles underpinning the government.

Taming influence?

The coalition building did take another step forward with the votes by Labour on who would take up the posts allocated to it under the pact with Mr Sharon's Likud Party.

The former Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, was unopposed as foreign minister.

Shimon Peres
Peres: Dovish foil to the hardline Sharon
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer won through to the other key post of defence minister.

As a result of the vote, Israel also looks set to get its first Arab cabinet minister - Salah Tarif, from the Druze community.

He has been allocated a post as minister without portfolio.

But it is clear that part of his job will be trying to rebuild relations between Israel's Arab and Jewish communities.

Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel's population.

But rioting within the Arab community, in the wake of the Palestinian uprising, and the killing of 13 Israeli Arabs by the Israeli security forces, has seriously undermined what was already a fragile relationship.

A coalition government now looks a step closer, after nearly a month of negotiations.

Mr Sharon plans to present his coalition to the Knesset on Wednesday.

But, in the current fractious state of Israeli politics, nothing is certain.

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See also:

03 Mar 01 | Middle East
Israel's cabinet takes shape
02 Mar 01 | Middle East
Israel gets new defence chief
26 Feb 01 | Middle East
Labour to join Sharon coalition
14 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Forging a unity deal
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