Defense Minister Ehud Barak looks on during a press conference in Jerusalem, Israel, on on Nov. 21.(Photo: Lior Mizrahi, Getty Images)
JERUSALEM -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday
abruptly announced he was quitting politics, shaking up the country's
political system just weeks ahead of general elections.
decorated former general and one-time prime minister, said he would stay
on in his current post until a new government is formed following the
Jan. 22 balloting.
"I didn't make this decision without
hesitating, but I made it wholeheartedly," he told a hastily arranged
news conference, saying he had been wrestling with the decision for
Barak's resignation could mean the departure of the most
moderating influence on hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who
is expected to retain his job after the election. Barak, who heads a
small centrist faction in parliament, had often served as Netanyahu's
unofficial envoy to Washington in order to smooth over differences with
the Obama White House.
Barak, 70, made the surprise announcement
even after polls showed his breakaway Independence Party gaining
momentum after Israel's recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been an
object of desire for me. There are many ways for me to serve the
country, not just through politics," he said, adding his decision was
spurred in part by his desire to spend more time with his family.
and Netanyahu, who enjoyed a close working relationship for most of the
past four years, reportedly have fallen out over whether to defer to
the U.S. on any attack against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Barak's detractors in Netanyahu's Likud Party wanted him replaced.
evaded repeated questions about whether he might agree to serve as a
Cabinet minister in an upcoming government, leaving open the possibility
that he might still retain an impact on Israeli politics. While most
Cabinet ministers also hold parliamentary seats, small numbers have been
appointed as "professional" ministers without winning election.