In a press conference on Monday in Tel Aviv, Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that after the "successful operation in Gaza," he has decided to leave political life. He will not be running in Israel's elections slated for January 2013, but will continue serving as defense minister until the new government is in place. After Barak understood that he does not have a place in the Likud, he grasped his lack of relevance in Israel’s political arena and chose to retire from political life.
Ehud Barak announced retirement from political life on Monday
“I decided to retire from politics and not run in the upcoming elections,” Barak announced. Later he claimed that a desire to spend more time with family was the reason behind his announcement.
Barak's announcement was preceded by speculations about his political intentions, the assumption being that he preferred not to run under the Atzmaut party, a political formation he created to split from the Labor Party.
Israeli analysts believed that Barak wanted to be nominated by Netanyahu in the Likud as part of a merger between Likud and Atzmaut.These plans collapsed, however, due to fierce opposition in the Likud to the merger ,and the idea vanished last summer.
Later rumors said Barak may run together with Tzipi Livni, another politician looking to join an electoral list. Livni had recently named Barak as a possible counterpart when discussing possibilities with associates. It was said that if polls prove that Atzmaut would pass the electoral threshold, then Livni may benefit from associating with a “security figure” in a joint list. However, in light of Barak's statement today, Livni will have to look for a different "defense-oriented" character.
Barak also held meetings with Ofer Eini, chairman of the Histadrut, Moshe Kahlon, who broke with the Likud, Labor party leader Sheli Yacimovich and even with Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of Israel Beitenu. Rumors said that Barak may run in the Likud-Israel Beitenu list at the expense of an Israel Beitenu seat in parliament.
Reacting to Barak’s press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he respects the decision of the Minister of Defense to retire from political life and thanked him for his cooperation in the government.
However, not everybody in the Likud was happy with Barak in government. Minister of Environment Gilad Ardan said that Barak’s political ideology is a complete mistake. He added that “we work to raise the minimum required turnout to be elected for parliament so there will be a real leadership in this country and not leaders like Barak, who were mistaken in reading the political situation of Middle East.”
Likud’s Dani Danon posted on his Facebook page “blessed is He who rid us from this punishment.” After Barak understood that he does not have a place in the Likud, he grasped his lack of relevance in Israel’s political arena and chose to retire from political life.
Sheli Yachimovich of the Labor Party praised Barak on her Facebook page, claiming that he is the most decorated soldier in the world and one of the persons most trusted concerning international security. Yachimovich added that Barak “contributed to the army and to national security in ways that the public may never know, because most of his actions will remain confidential.”
In contrast, Knesset Member Dov Hanin of Hadash welcomed Barak’s announcement, saying he was the “backbone of the most extreme right-wing government in Israel's history.”