Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak to quit politics after elections
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Monday morning that he will quit politics after the Jan. 22 national elections.
"I am here to announce I'm resigning from political life," Barak said at a press conference held at the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, adding that he had some second thoughts and has made this decision "wholeheartedly."
"I joined the army in 1959 and since then I've served the Israeli people to the best of my abilities. I will end my role and my service as defense minister in three months, ending seven years in which I've been in this office under three governments," Barak said.
"I've been thinking about this decision for several weeks and I 've delayed my decision amid the situation in the Gaza Strip," he said.
Barak said he made this decision because he wants to spend more time with his family and feels he has had enough of politics and should let other young new candidates join the parliament.
The veteran politician has gained popularity during Israel's recent "Operation Pillar of Defense". Before the operation, polls revealed that Barak's Atzmaut Party would fail to gain one seat in the upcoming elections. However, after the operation there was a spike in Barak's popularity and recent polls showed that his party will achieve four seats.
During the last Knesset (parliament) session, the former prime minister joined the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid resentment from his left-wing Labor party members.
In January 2011, almost two years after the cabinet was formed, Barak broke away from his party and formed a new faction, Atzmaut, with the support of four former Labor party members.
Since Netanyahu announced the January elections a month ago, Barak has been trying to come across as a left-wing candidate striving to restore peace negotiations, so as to differentiate himself from Netanyahu's right-wing cabinet and get back the center-left support which he lost by joining Netanyahu's government.
Barak's sudden announcement quashed a rumored link-up with former Kadima party chairwoman Tsipi Livni in a new political party to compete in the coming political battle.
Barak served as the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff between 1991 and 1995, as well as interior minister and foreign minister in the 1990s. He was voted in 1999 as prime minister for the first time and reigned during the second Intifada.