Wire Service: AP
JERUSALEM, Jan. 29 - Israel on Monday installed the first Muslim Cabinet minister in its 58-year history Monday, with parliament approving his appointment by a wide margin.
Raleb Majadele's appointment to the Cabinet, which the government billed as a step toward equality for Muslim Arabs, Israel's largest minority, passed by a vote of 59 to 23. Then Majadele was sworn in.
The appointment was mired for weeks in political infighting and charges of racism. It drew criticism from hard-liners who said the move was little more than political expediency. Even Arab lawmakers dismissed the development, saying the government has little real interest in improving the lot of Israel's Arabs.
Majadele told AP Television News that his goals as a Cabinet minister would be "promoting coexistence between the two peoples inside the state, and promoting dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis toward negotiations and political agreement."
Majadele, a parliamentary backbencher from the centrist Labor Party, said his appointment is meant to give representation to Israel's Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of the country's 7 million citizens. He has predicted that in the future, every Israeli government will be obliged to include an Arab minister.