The Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak abruptly announced his retirement from politics, causing a shock to the general election campaign but leaving many predicting his immediate return to office.
Mr Barak (70) told reporters he would not seek re-election in January and would retire when a new government is formed.
He has served as Israel's defence minister for seven years. He previously served as Labour Prime Minister from 1999 to 2001.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed "personal appreciation" for a former foe who became a close confidant, quitting the Labour leadership to stay in government.
Right-wing elements in Mr Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party were unable to contain their glee at Mr Barak's departure. The Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan accused him of having "totally misread the political situation in the Middle East".
Sceptics, however, recalled that the last time Mr Barak retired to spend more time with his family in 2001, he divorced his wife, made millions in defence-related business deals, and soon returned to politics. (© Independent News Service)