Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday began taking leave of ministry and parting from Israel Defense Forces officials, after almost six years in office.
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"We're facing extremely complex challenges. Iran is still there, Syria is disintegrating in front of our very eyes and arms transfers to Hezbollah may take place any day now," he told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Nonetheless, he stressed that "Israel is clearly the strongest state in the Middle East. We believe there isn't any force in the area that might attack Israel with divisions and armored forces in the manner we experienced in past decades."
Later in the day, Barak arrived at an air force base in the center of the country and reviewed the F-16 squadrons before visiting the navy base in Haifa. On Tuesday, his official parting ceremony will take place at the air force base in Palmahim.
Barak began his current term at the Defense Ministry in June 2007, and headed the ministry during the strike on the nuclear facility in Syria, which according to foreign reports was carried out by Israel, and during the two assaults on the Gaza Strip - Operation Cast Lead at the turn of 2009 and Operation Pillar of Defense in November. His term will also be remembered due to the venomous relationship he had with former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Both men were severely criticized by the state comptroller in his report on the so-called "Harpaz affair."
Barak, 71, announced his retirement last November, less than a week after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense. At that press conference, Barak said he reached the decision "not without qualms, but ultimately with my heart at peace," and that he plans to "study, write, live and enjoy" himself.
In an interview with CNN in January, Barak said he does not intend to be part of the next government, and that he was "leaving politics for at least five years." In the same interview he added that the social protest affected the results of the elections, since it "was ignored by the government in which I served."