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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 January 2007, 14:33 GMT
First Arab joins Israeli cabinet
Raleb Majadele
Mr Majadele is a long-time union leader
The Israel government has voted to appoint an Arab Muslim to the cabinet - for the first time in the history of the Jewish state.

Raleb Majadele from the Labour Party will be minister without portfolio.

Mr Majadele, aged 53, said his appointment would give Israeli Arabs a sense of belonging.

Labour Party leader Amir Peretz said it was an historic step towards equality for Israeli Arabs, who make up about 20% of Israel's population.

All Israeli cabinet ministers - except for the ultra-nationalist Minister of Strategic Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman - voted in favour of Mr Majadele's appointment.

"The first step has been taken and this has given Israeli Arabs a feeling of belonging," Mr Majadele told Israel's Army Radio.

Israeli Arabs have long complained of discrimination, but the Israeli government points out that they have more rights than Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Jerusalem says.

In 2001, Salah Tarif, a member of Israel's Druze minority, was made minister without portfolio but he resigned shortly afterwards after being indicted on corruption charges.

He was convicted in 2003.


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