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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Israeli defence Barak chief quits politics ahead of elections

Jeffrey Heller

Published 26/11/2012 | 10:26

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Israel's Defence Minister Barak waves after a news conference in Tel Aviv. Photo: Reuters

Defence Minister Ehud Barak, a main architect of Israel's policy towards Iran's nuclear programme, said in a surprise announcement on Monday that he was quitting politics and would not run in the January 22 national election.

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"I have decided to retire from political life and not to run for the next Knesset ... I will end my term as defence minister once the next government is established, in about three months," he told a news conference.

"I want to dedicate more time to my family. I feel I have exhausted dealing with political life, which has never been a passion of mine, and I feel there is room to allow other people to serve in senior roles in Israel," he said.

Opinion polls had predicted a poor showing for the small party that Barak currently leads, Atzmaut, but recently indicated voter support had strengthened as a result of Israel's eight-day offensive in the Gaza Strip that ended in a ceasefire on Wednesday.

Barak, 70, has been a key player in Israel's tough policy towards curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions and a pointman in the Jewish state's strategic relations with the United States.

He has been defence minister since 2007 and served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001.

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