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November 29, 2012 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-11-29

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Surprise Retirement

Israel's Defense Minister Barak leaves
long political legacy.

Joshua Davidovich and
Stuart Winer
Times of Israel

thwarting Iran's drive to a nuclear weapons
Barak, 70, said he would leave his post
as defense minister when a new govern-
ment is formed, likely in February. "I feel
there is room now for other people to take
up positions in Israel:' he said, adding he
now wants to spend more time with his
Netanyahu said he "respects" Barak's
decision to retire from political life and
thanked him for his "contributions over
many years to the security of the state:'
Barak told the press he would be open
to staying on as defense minister in the
next government if appointed and said he
would always be available to advise future
governments on matters of defense and
national security.
Barak proved a popular defense min-
ister, even if his political fortunes have
waned with time. His Independence Party,
which he formed in a surprise 2010 move
in the wake of an internal rift with Labor,
was expected to gain three seats at most


srael's Defense Minister Ehud Barak
announced Monday he would leave
political life after the next elections,
dropping a bombshell after a career that
saw him rise from one of the country's
most highly decorated soldiers to prime
minister before falling out of favor and
then making an improbable comeback.
His surprise
announcement came
less than a week after
he oversaw Israel's
Operation Pillar of
Defense assault on
Hamas and other rocket-
firing terror groups in
Gaza, and after almost
four years in which he
had been Benjamin Netanyahu's close
security partner, working with the prime
minister to formulate strategies aimed at

in upcoming elections, with some polls
showing it unable to even cross the thresh-
old to enter the Knesset.
Barak remained tight-lipped when asked
about the negotiations he has held with
other parties and political personalities
with whom he has been linked. Rumors
had surfaced he was in talks with former
Kadima head Tzipi Livni to form a new
Barak's stepping down likely paves the
way for former army chief Moshe Yaalon,
currently strategic affairs minister for
Likud, to become defense minister, as has
long been rumored. Current opposition
head Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minis-
ter, may also be gunning for the post.
Barak, considered a military expert with
a flair for the unexpected, served as Israel
Defense Forces chief of staff before enter-
ing politics in the 1990s.
Born on a kibbutz in 1942, Barak was
central to the early successes of the IDF's
most elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal,
and is the most decorated soldier in Israeli
army history, having taken part in a num-
ber of daring raids that earned him a repu-
tation as a defense stalwart.
He entered politics with the left-wing
Labor Party in the mid-1990s and succeed-
ed Netanyahu as prime minister in 1999,
serving concurrently as defense minister.

As prime minister, he sought to con-
clude a permanent peace accord with
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, initiat-
ing and participating in 2000's abortive
negotiations at Camp David hosted by Bill
Clinton. Rebuffed by Arafat after offer-
ing an Israeli withdrawal from almost all
of the West Bank, Barak later said he had
removed the mask" from Arafat, expos-
ing him as unwilling to agree to the com-
promises necessary for a viable two-state
After Netanyahu was elected for a
second term in 2009, Barak stayed on as
defense minister. He built a strong alliance
with Netanyahu, seeming to see eye-to-
eye on the imperative for urgent action
to thwart Iran's nuclear drive, although
recently Barak indicated he believed there
was still some more time to see whether
sanctions would force the regime to aban-
don its program.
As he did with Operation Cast Lead four
years ago, Barak stewarded the recent Israeli
Pillar of Defense assault on Hamas and
other terror targets in Gaza following years
of rocket fire, and in both cases sought to
weaken Hamas' terrorist and rocket-fire
capacity, without ousting Hamas and retak-
ing the Gaza Strip altogether.


Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.




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