In a dramatic press conference on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced he will not run in the upcoming Israeli elections in January 2013. Barak, who saw a spike in popularity following Operation Pillar of Defense, said that he wishes to spend more time with his family, and contribute to Israel through non-political avenues. Political peers including former Kadima chair Tzipini Livni, Israel Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,expressed regret over Barak's decision to retire.
Aluf Benn says that Barak's decision to quit was inevitable. The outgoing defense minister understood he had no chance of crossing the electoral threshold in the January election, so instead of conducting a campaign that would end in public humiliation and debts, he decided to cut his losses and forgo contending as the head of the Atzmaut party. Netanyahu may appoint him as a "professional minister" in his next government, but then Barak will have less influence than he does currently.
Anshel Pfeffer argues that Barak preferred to be master of his own political fate. The defense minister realized that his chances of keeping his post after January's election are increasingly slim, and chose to leave the military headquarters with his head held high. This doesn't mean we have seen the last of Ehud Barak in Israeli public life, however.
Amir Oren writes that Barak's decision may have been taken due to an error of political calculus. Part of outgoing Defense Minister Baraks political fate rests in the hands of Attorney General Weinstein, who is still to decide whether or not to indict FM Lieberman on charges of fraud - something that would prevent him from serving as Defense Minister under a new Netanyahu government. With Lieberman out of the running, we may see Barak return to politics before he has had the chance to say goodbye.
Amos Harel says that Barak is still keeping all of his options open. The short statement he made on Monday morning, which was surprising and a little vague, left both his fans and his rivals wondering: What did he really mean by it?
Yossi Verter also wonders whether Barak's retirement is goodbye or au revoir. After an eventful political career that culminated in five years as defense minister, Barak realized it could only go downhill from here. But given that politics is by definition unreliable, and that Barak is one of the most least reliable of politicians, he might only be saying goodbye for now.
Gideon Levy writes that Barak represents a great hope that turned into a bitter disappointment. The outgoing defense minister could have been the most important Israeli statesman since David Ben-Gurion, if it were not for his guile and deceit, Levy says. In all of his dealings, including the announcement of his departure from politics, Barak has surprised and deceived the Israeli public.
Haaretz's Editorial reflects on Barak's legacy. The lesson to be learned from Barak's term, the editorial argues, is how important it is to have a moderate defense minister who is aware of the limitations of force and is wary of military adventures or steps to further entrench the occupation in the territories.
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