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Israeli Parliament Confirms First Arab Muslim Minister


Israel's parliament has approved the appointment of the country's first Arab Muslim minister.

The parliament, Knesset voted Monday 59 to 23 to confirm Raleb Majadele as minister without portfolio.

Majadele said he hopes to improve the plight of Israeli Arabs, who comprise 20 percent of Israel's population and who complain of discrimination by the Jewish majority.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz, whose Labor party nominated Majadele, said he is sure the new minister will help close the gaps in Israeli society.

Avigdor Lieberman, from the extreme right Yisrael Beitenu (Israel our Home) party, was the only member of Israel's cabinet to vote against Majadele in a cabinet vote on Sunday.

One Arab parliamentarian, Abbas Zachour said it is wrong for an Arab to sit in a government that supports Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

The Labor Party nominated the 53-year-old Majadele after a Labor minister, Ophir Pines-Paz resigned in protest last year over Yisrael Beiteinu's joining the coalition government.

Critics accuse Lieberman of racism for his comments about Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

Labor is a senior coalition partner in Israel's government, which is led by the Kadima Party of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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