Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak abruptly announced Monday that he was leaving politics and would not run in parliamentary elections in January, quashing speculation that he might unite with other centrist candidates to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Barak, who declared that he would step down when a new government is formed after the election, said he felt he had “exhausted my involvement in politics.”
Long unpopular as a political candidate, Barak faced poor election prospects for his tiny Independence faction despite a modest bump in the polls following Israel’s recent military offensive in Gaza against the Islamist group Hamas.
By announcing his departure after that campaign, which boosted his approval ratings as defense minister, Barak appeared positioned for a potential return to the job as an outside cabinet appointment after the Jan. 22 election. He was noncommittal Monday when asked if he might return to the cabinet if he were invited back to serve in the post as an external appointee.