Druze lawmaker demands cabinet posts ‘not just for Jews’

Druze lawmaker demands cabinet posts ‘not just for Jews’

In coalition with two-seat majority, Likud’s Ayoub Kara hints he may vote against adding more ministers if he isn’t one of them

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Druze MK Ayoub Kara has warned that “there will be surprises” if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to appoint a Druze minister to the new cabinet being formed.

“I won’t let the lovers of Israel in this country be humiliated once again,” Kara said Thursday.

“A government won’t be formed that will ignore the thousands of Druze soldiers and officers deployed to Israel’s borders who were insulted by the ‘Jewish State law.’ We have to pull them back in and embrace them and tell them, ‘You’re part of this country,'” Kara said.

“The Druze weren’t born just for war. They were also born to sit at the cabinet table.”

The Likud took a majority of Druze votes in the 2013 election, but failed to do so in 2015.

According to Kara, that drop in support came in the wake of the so-called “Jewish State law,” a proposed Basic Law supported by the right that would strengthen the legal status of Israel’s character as a Jewish state.

“In the last election, I took a majority of the Druze [for Likud]. This election, they ran away from me because of the ‘Jewish State law.’ I have to bring them back to Likud. Appointing a [Druze] minister is an embrace [that can do that].”

MK Ayoub Kara (center) and his family arrive at the opening of the 18th Knesset, Jerusalem, February 24 2009. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
MK Ayoub Kara (center) and his family arrive at the opening of the 18th Knesset, Jerusalem, February 24, 2009. (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu has signed deals with four coalition partners — Jewish Home, United Torah Judaism, Shas and Kulanu — handing them 10 ministries. Under law, the cabinet is limited to 18 ministers, but Netanyahu hopes to expand that maximum to 22 in one of the first Knesset votes expected next week.

The vote is technically a staying order delaying the implementation of the 18-ministers law for the duration of the 20th Knesset. If it succeeds, Likud will get 12 ministerial posts in the new government. If not, it will be limited to eight, and Netanyahu will struggle to find open slots for new claimants to a cabinet post.

But with a slim 61-seat coalition in the 120-member Knesset, and facing stiff opposition to adding additional ministerial posts from opposition parties, getting the votes to expand the cabinet might be a difficult first test for the new coalition.

Kara’s warning Thursday demonstrates the fragility of trying to govern with a 61-59 majority, in which a lawmaker ranked 24th on the ruling party list holds a critical vote for the passage of a critical measure.

Kara appeared to threaten to vote against the measure. “A government won’t be formed without a [Druze] minister sitting there to send a clear message: that we’re an integral part of this country,” he told a Knesset Channel panel on Thursday.

Asked specifically if he would vote against the cabinet expansion, which is expected to come up in the plenum Monday — the same day in which Likud cabinet appointments are expected to be announced — Kara declined to answer.

“I will go to Jethro’s grave,” a Druze shrine near Tiberias, “where the alliance with the Jewish people began, and I will consult with our priests, as Jethro did, and Moses,” about how far he will go with his demand.

Kara has served in four Knessets, always for Likud, “but people who came two terms ago are chosen over me. That’s not a simple thing to deal with,” he said — and not a simple thing to explain to his Druze constituents. “I need to know if only Jews can sit at the cabinet table… whether hundreds of people who died [in Israel’s wars], including from my family, don’t make us worthy of sitting there.”

Likud sources close to Netanyahu told the right-leaning Israel Hayom newspaper on Thursday that threats made by several Likud MKs in recent days to vote against the new government “are toothless. Everyone who is threatening knows that they won’t lend a hand to toppling the government.”

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