Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that he is retiring from politics and won’t run in elections scheduled for Jan. 22.
“I will conclude my term as defense minister with the formation of the next government in another three months,” Barak, 70, said at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv today. “My decision to resign comes from a desire to spend more time with family,” Barak said, adding he could serve the country in other ways outside politics.
The announcement came less than a week after Israel reached a cease-fire agreement with Hamas that ended an eight-day military operation to stop rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Barak’s Independence faction, which he founded after breaking away from the Labor Party last year and holds five seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, is struggling in the polls with voter surveys showing it would win at most two or three seats. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is favored to win re-election.
“The best explanation is that Barak may not see any political horizon open to him, and maybe he believes by resigning now he can create a non-partisan image that will help return as defense minister,” said Gideon Rahat, political science professor at the Hebrew University. The only impact on the elections is that the few seats that Independence might have gotten will now go to other centrist parties, Rahat said.
Netanyahu said he respects Barak’s decision and “appreciates his contribution of many years to Israel’s security,” according to a text message from the prime minister’s office.
Barak is a former prime minister and army chief.