JERUSALEM: Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, said on Monday he was quitting politics after a long career that also saw him serve as prime minister.
Mr Barak, 70, made the surprise announcement at a news conference in Tel Aviv, adding that he would retire from politics after a new government was formed after January elections.
''I have decided to resign from political life and not participate in the upcoming Knesset elections,'' Mr Barak said. ''I will finish my duties as Defence Minister with the formation of the next government in three months.''
Mr Barak's announcement came as observers speculated he would announce he was joining another political party before the elections. Many suspected he might pair up with the former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to run on a centrist ticket, after she quit the centre-right Kadima party following her loss in a primary vote.
But few believed that Mr Barak would announce he was quitting political life altogether.
In January, he resigned from the Labour party, leading his newly formed Independence faction into the government of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.