Labor to Get Minority Minister, Other Moves to Appease

One of Labor's five ministers in the new government will oversee Arab and Druze communities, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon said on Wednesday.

A minority minister is intended to appease these communities, whose leaders objected to Labor entering Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Labor's negotiating team heads, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and Histadrut chair Ofer Eini, made a point of securing benefits for all the sectors represented by party delegates in the coalition deal. This ensured their vote for the deal, paving the way for Labor chairman Ehud Barak's victory at the party's convention Tuesday night.

The deal promises budgets for infrastructure development in the Arab and Druze communities and state action to develop workplaces and improve integration.

The agreement also contains promises for the moshavim: In addition to Simhon's continued tenure as agriculture minister, the government will set up one committee to regulate farmers' land rights, and another to rehabilitate the moshavim's infrastructure at a cost of NIS 35 million.

The agreement also includes a promise to preserve Labor's representation in the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund, even though the party has only 13 Knesset seats.

The agreement promises a NIS 200 million annual subsidy for Naamat's day care centers, to encourage more women to join the work force and to revoke legislative initiatives to impose health tax on housewives.

Labor also procured a promise to increase old-age allocations by NIS 950 million over the next three years.

Labor's mayors and local authority heads also benefit from the deal, which stipulates that the government will advance legislation to strengthen local government and regulate its relations with the national government.