Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, to quit politics

Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on November 26, 2012, in Tel Aviv, that he will quit political life after a decades-long career that also saw him serve as prime minister.

During a still-tenuous ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Monday his intention to quit politics after the upcoming January 22 elections.

At an unscheduled news conference, Barak told reporters he would be leaving his post.

“I came to this decision not without misgivings but in the end [with] a whole heart. I would be concealing the whole truth if I did not say that the warmth that I feel from the public — favorable coverage from some of you, in recent days — wasn’t nice. As someone who has not been indulged in that way usually, I know how to appreciate this and rejoice in it,” he said, according to the BBC.

Barak added, "I want to study, to write, to live and have a good time."

Recent opinion polls revealed small but increased support for Barak's Independence party after the Gaza attacks, the BBC pointed out.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on Barak's decision via Twitter, where he also thanked him for his service:

Barak's announcement comes after an eight-day battle between Hamas and Israel that killed at least 158 Palestinians and six Israelis.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum issued a statement saying Barak's resignation proved Netanyahu's government was failing.

"This is evidence of the political and military failure that the government of Netanyahu and his defense minister suffered," he said, according to Reuters.

The New York Times reported that Barak's political party, the increasingly marginalized Independence faction, is facing a tough election in which they may not "win enough votes for even a single seat in the Parliament."

Barak said during the press conference: "I feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been an object of desire for me. There are many ways for me to serve the country, not just through politics."

The Jerusalem Post pointed out the announcement debunks rumors that Barak would join former foreign minister Tzipi Livni in a "yet-to-be-formed National Responsibility Party."

For over 50 years, Barak served Israel as a soldier and politician. From 1999 to 2001 he served as Israel's prime minister.