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The Knesset approved the ministerial appointment of Labor MK Ghaleb Majadele by a large majority Monday, making Majadele the first Arab government minister in Israeli history.

The appointment was approved by a vote of 59 in favor and 23 against, including the representatives of the Arab parties. Two MKs abstained in the vote.

National Democratic Alliance (Balad) Chairman Azmi Bishara told the Knesset during the debate on Majadele's appointment that as a member of the opposition, he views supporting the expansion of the cabinet as a show of faith in the government.

Bishara said he opposes the government and its policies, and will not support appointment of a Labor Party minister just because he happens to be an Arab.

"The ethnicity of the Labor Party minister does not interest me," said Bishara.

Nonetheless, the Arab parties' MKs, who voted against the appointment, rushed to congratulate Majadele following the Knesset vote. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also congratulated and kissed the new minister.

Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz said he is certain Majadele "will serve as a symbol of closing the gaps in Israeli society."

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik quoted the Declaration of Independence's call for Israeli Arabs to integrate as equals in state institutions. Itzik said Majadele's appointement is a "clear voice" in favor of the right of Arabs to have the opportunity to integrate into state institutions.