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In Israel, Labor's move to join Netanyahu coalition draws dovish fire

Ehud Barak says he could act as a counterweight to far-right and religious coalition members.

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Hoping to buy some geopolitical maneuvering room, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu initialed a deal on Tuesday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak to include his dovish Labor Party in the new Israeli government.

Mr. Netanyahu wants Mr. Barak to keep his job, which would allow him to act as a counterweight to far-right and religious coalition members. Those partners oppose any hint of negotiations to relinquish land to Israel's neighbors, thus risking further diplomatic isolation for the Jewish state.

Moreover, Barak's presence as defense minister will allay concern about the influence of ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman – tapped as foreign minister – on policymaking regarding Iran's growing power.

"Internationally, it improves matters. There is a perception was that it was an extreme right-wing coalition," says Avraham Diskin, a political science professor at Hebrew University. "If there is a need to do something about the nuclear capability of Iran, it's much easier now. Barak has proven himself to be cautious."

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