Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ben Lynfield, "Minister quits as anti-Arab joins Israeli coalition," The Scotsman, Oct 31, 2006.

A minister from Israel's Labour party resigned in protest yesterday as the coalition government led by the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, welcomed into its ranks an ultra-nationalist with anti-Arab views.

Ofer Pines-Paz, the minister of culture, quit saying he could not serve alongside Avigdor Lieberman, head of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, which calls for the exclusion of Arab citizens from the borders of Israel.

Mr Lieberman has also called for the execution of Arab MPs who met Hamas leaders or marked Israel's independence day as the anniversary of the displacement of Palestinians.

Mr Pines-Paz said the inclusion of Mr Lieberman, who is to become a deputy prime minister in the coalition, places an "ethical stain" on the government. "No other path was left to me [but to resign]," Mr Pines-Paz said. He cast the sole 'no' vote as the cabinet approved the move 22 to one.

Mr Olmert opted for an alliance with the far-right politician, who was given the new post of minister for strategic affairs, to broaden his coalition from 67 to 78 out of the 120 seats.

Mr Olmert told ministers yesterday Mr Lieberman would be placed in charge of "formulating strategic intelligence", which would clearly impinge on the role of Amir Peretz, the defence minister.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a Labour minister, said yesterday that Mr Lieberman had agreed to enter the government in accordance with coalition guidelines, which he said was proof that "we have restrained him".

Mr Lieberman has depicted Israeli Arabs - 20 per cent of the population - as a demographic threat to the Jewish majority as well as a fifth column. The United Arab List party said his joining the government "legitimises racism and constitutes the final nail in the coffin of Israeli democracy".
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