Israel's Labor Will Join Netanyahu

But some party members may split off to join opposition
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 24, 2009 4:22 PM CDT
Senior Israeli Labor party officials and cabinet ministers Binyamin Ben Eliezer, left, Shalom Simchon, second left, Matan Vilnai, third right, stand on stage after the party vote.    (DAN BALILTY)
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(Newser) – Israel's Labor Party voted today to join the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu, giving a centrist tone to the coalition that has looked hard-line up to now. The vote—680 in favor and 507 against—came after heated debate. "I won't be anyone's fig leaf or anyone's third wheel," said party leader Ehud Barak. "We will be the counterweight that will guarantee that we won't have a narrow right-wing government, but a real government that will take care of the state of Israel."

Barak is expected to remain as defense minister. Netanyahu has signed coalition agreements with Yisrael Beitenu and Shas, two parties known for their tough policy lines toward the Palestinians, as is Netanyahu's own Likud Party. Labor, in contrast, has been in the forefront of Mideast peace efforts. Labor's 13 seats in the parliament would give Netanyahu a majority of 66 in the 120-seat house.