Veteran Israeli politician and Defense Minister Ehud Barak has announced that he is quitting politics.
Announcing the decision at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Monday morning, Barak said he would not contest the next general elections slated for January, but would remain in charge of Defense until a new government was formed.
He told reporters that he had been mulling the matter for some time to spend more time with his family and studying and writing, but delayed making it public as the recent military operation against Gaza came in between.
He made it clear that the decision has no implications on Operation Pillar of Defense, and that it is purely personal.
Political life has never been a passion for him, according to Barak, who said he was paving the way for other people to serve in senior roles in Israel.
The soldier-turned politician has a glorious military career spanning 39 years, highlighted by two daring operations to free Israeli hostages on hijacked planes.
The most decorated soldier in Israeli history, Barak began his political career in 1995 when he was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs, within months of his resignation as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) chief.
He also served as Foreign Minister before becoming the leader of the Labor Party. He was elected Prime Minister defeating Benjamin Netanyahu in the 1999 general election, but his government collapsed in 2001. Barak made a successful political comeback in 2007 by winning back the Labor party leadership, and swearing in as Defense Minister when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reshuffled his Cabinet.
Since then, Barak remained a key member of the core group of Israel's security cabinet that took important decisions before and during the 22-day-old war on Gaza militants.
Despite being head of a small center-left party, Barak was given charge of the most-important defense portfolio when Likud party chief Netanyahu formed a coalition Cabinet in March 2009, in return for the former's decision to join the government, breaking a 42-day-long deadlock over Cabinet formation from a Parliament where no party enjoyed simple majority.
In January 2011, Barak formed a breakaway party, Independence. His retirement from politics comes at a time when polls showed a growth in support for his party in the wake of the IDF inflicting a severe blow to Gaza earlier this month.
by RTT Staff Writer
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