Furious at Lack of 'Russian' Minister, Immigrants to Protest Outside Knesset

Hundreds of Russian-speaking Israelis from around the country will gather across from the Knesset as the cabinet is sworn in today to protest what they see as the new government's "anti-immigration" stance.

The demonstration is being organized by Yisrael Beiteinu, which was left out of the coalition despite lengthy negotiations. The party is arranging buses from several cities for the demonstrators.

In addition to protesting the omission of the country's only immigrants' party from the new government, the demonstrators want to call attention to the fact that for the first time in a decade, there will not be a single Russian-speaking minister in the cabinet. The Russian community had expected the former deputy minister of absorption, MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima), to head that ministry instead of party colleague MK Ze'ev Boim.

The lack of Russian representation in the cabinet plays into the hands of Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who claims that it hurts not only his party, but the entire Russian-speaking community. Large parts of this community, including Kadima activists, feel insulted by this omission.

Media frenzy

For the past two days, the Russian-language media, including Internet sites, have been full of angry reactions to Kadima's decision to snub their community and instead forge an alliance with Shas that threatens Kadima's main campaign promise to Russian voters - to push through civil marriage legislation. Several local Russian-language Internet sites featured a picture of a donkey, captioned: "I voted for Kadima, too."

Kadima grassroots activists sent a letter to Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asking him to meet with them urgently. They expressed their "shock and disappointment" that the issues that are important to immigrants have been wiped off the government's agenda, adding that hundreds of Russian-speakers who joined Kadima are canceling their party memberships.