Peretz Considers Tapping Druze Activist as Cabinet Minister

Peretz under pressure to appoint Shakib Shanan to position vacated in Ophir Pines-Paz resignation.

The Labor Party chair, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, is considering appointing a central activist from the Druze sector as minister of science, culture and technology.

Shakib Shanan, who was a leader of the Peretz camp in the Druze sector during the last election campaign, is from the Upper Galilee Druze town of Hurfeish. He was number 20 on Labor's Knesset list in last March's election, with only a few dozen votes separating him from a seat in the legislature.

Shanan said Peretz had promised to place him in the Knesset by appointing one of the other members of the faction to a ministerial post, on condition that individual would gave up his or her Knesset seat. Shanan told Haaretz Thursday night that after it appeared that Peretz was going to be unable to make good on his pledge, he expected the party chairman to see to it he entered the cabinet.

MK Ophir Pines-Paz resigned the post of science, culture and technology minister in protest over Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu faction joining the coalition.

Peretz has tried in recent weeks to find a Labor MK who would agree to give up his or her seat in the Knesset in exchange for a ministerial post. At the same time, he has come under heavy pressure from Arab activists in the Labor Party to appoint Shanan as a minister.

Peretz's associates said he had been unable to find anyone in the faction who would declare his or her loyalty to the party chairman after taking up the ministerial position. They said Peretz had not decided whether to appoint someone from inside or outside the faction, but confirmed that Shanan leads the short list.