Defense Minister Ehud Barak is quitting politics.
In a dramatic announcement, he said he decided to end his career and claimed successes as Defense Minister, a post he will leave when the next government is formed after the January 22 elections.
However, he still could be appointed as Defense Minister without being in the Knesset.
He scotched rumors swirling in Israeli media that he was going to join former Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni to join a new center-left party.
Virtually all polls have shown that his Independence party, which he formed after quitting Labor, might not win enough votes to win Knesset representation. Barak, now 70 years old, said the reason he is leaving politics is to spend more time with his family.
His absence from politics will be applauded by nationalists, whom he has thwarted repeatedly by ordering middle-of-the-night expulsions of Jewish families, including women and babies, from their homes in outposts.
Barak also has continuously blocked plans for building new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria.
Knesset Member Danny Danon of the Likud party responded to the announcement by stating, “Thank G-d we are rid of him.”
Barak previously quit politics “forever” after his dismal loss to Ariel Sharon in the 2001 elections.
He later returned to politics as head of the Labor party and then quit it last year to form the Independence faction, taking with him less than half a dozen supporters and leaving Knesset Member Shelly Yechimovich in charge of the party.
He is a former IDF Chief of Staff and was a highly decorated soldier and officer. He is known for daring stunts as an elite commando, once wearing a blond wig to pose as a woman in order to pass through enemy lines in Lebanon on the way to eliminate terrorists.
He entered the political arena in 1995 as Interior Minister in the government of Yitzchak Rabin and was later appointed Foreign Minister.
After heading the Labor party in 1997 and defeating Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the 1999 elections, Barak displayed serious political liabilities, which have dogged him ever since.
After only 18 months in office, he lost his solid majority coalition amidst frustration over failed polices. However, mainstream media still praise him for his ordering the sudden withdrawal of the IDF from the southern Lebanon security zone, a move that left a vacuum which Hizbullah handily filled.
Without in-the-field intelligence, Israel was surprised by Hizbullah’s military capacity in the Second Lebanon War, which cost the country unexpectedly high military casualties due to inadequate tank protection against advanced Russian-made anti-tank missiles.
After a landslide victory by Ariel Sharon over Barak in the 2001 elections, Barak resigned “forever” from politics.
He returned in 2007 and won the Labor party leadership but saw his party’s strength sink from 18 Knesset seats to only 13 in the current Knesset, before he split the party and formed his own faction.