Jerusalem Israel's parliament on Monday confirmed the appointment of Ehud Barak as defense minister, consolidating the political comeback of the former prime minister at a time of heightened security concerns on Israel's southern and northern borders.
Barak returned to power six years after a humiliating election defeat ended his short term as prime minister and sent him into the political wilderness.
He enters the post after the militant Islamic Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, wresting control from the rival Fatah last week in brutal and bloody street fighting. This has raised Israeli concerns of an increase in Palestinian rocket attacks and armed incursions from Gaza into nearby southern Israel.
In the north, pounded by cross-border Katyusha rocket barrages during last summer's war with the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, tensions rose again at the weekend with a fresh rocket attack claimed by a previously unknown militant Islamic group.
Barak's appointment followed his election last week as leader of the dovish Labor Party. Barak's presence in the Cabinet is expected to give a boost to Olmert.