The Israeli government is set to welcome its first Muslim cabinet member. The entire cabinet, with the exception of the somewhat mentally unstable Avigdor Lieberman, approved the appointment of Raleb Majadele to the post of "minister without portfolio" (whatever the hell that means). Majadele is a member of Israel's Labor Party, the junior partner in the coalition currently headed by Ehud Olmert's Kadima (Forward) Party. Labor, incidentally, is headed by defense minister Amir Peretz, who seems to be getting a lot of the blame for Israel's bungled, heavy-handed mission into Lebanon this past summer.
The appointment of Majadele to this post is a symbolic gesture, though a symbol of what I'm not sure. A symbol of a renewed dedication to inclusiveness by Israel towards its Muslim minority? Possibly. Israel has had success incorporating its Druze minority into the fabric of the state, and I see no reason why the same couldn't be done for the Muslims. Though the continued inclusion of Lieberman - someone so virulently anti-Arab that he makes Glenn Beck look warm and fuzzy - in the cabinet can't be comforting to those who want to see anti-Arab discrimination in Israel fall by the wayside.
(Aside: I have enough problems with Joe Lieberman. I don't need another crappy Lieberman to deal with. Seriously, Avigdor Lieberman and Tom Tancredo should sit down together. They'd have a lot to talk about. They could have lunch, have a couple of drinks, and discuss their plans to sodomize their respective countries. They'd have lots of fun. OK, rant over.)
Perhaps Labor is starting a push for getting rid of some of Israel's discrimination against its Arab minority, but it seems to me that such a movement would need the cooperation of the Arab Israelis themselves. As far as the Post article is concerned, the Arab parties have yet to engage in the capital derectalization necessary to launch an effective anti-discrimination movement - they denounced the appointment of Majadele as "giving a seal of approval" to Israel's discriminatory policies. Kids, it may be a symbolic gesture, but that's better than no gesture at all. It means they recognize the existence of a problem.
I've said it before on this blog and I'll say it again - the separate party thing just ain't working for the Israeli Arabs. They'll only see real change if they attempt to participate in mainstream Israeli politics instead of isolating themselves. So kudos to Majadele for having the courage to ditch the self-defeating ethnic parties and work his way near the top of one of the mainstream parties (of which there are an abundance in Israel). A more inclusive Israel will result when his compatriots follow suit.
And finally, a big raspberry to Esterina Tartman, one of Lieberman's drones in the Knesset, who said of Majadele: "We need to burn this plague out of our midst and God willing, the Lord will help us with that." I hear Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh is thinking of suing Ms. Tartman for plaigiarism.
Incidentally, does this make Israel the first Western country with a Muslim cabinet member? If so, that's hilariously ironic. I know we've had a couple of Lebanese Christians (former Energy Sec. Spencer Abraham being the most prominent in my mind), but I don't know about practicing Muslims. Someone with more knowledge on this than me, let me know.