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Report or Rumor? Netanyahu May Keep Barak as Defense Minister

Channel 10 TV says PM Netanyahu may ask Ehud Barak to stay on as Defense Minister in order to keep Moshe Ya'alon away from the role.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 1/21/2013, 4:44 AM

Barak and Netanyahu
Barak and Netanyahu
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Defense Minister Ehud Barak may have announced his decision to quit politics, but we may have not seen the last of him yet, according to a Sunday report on Channel 10 News.

The unsubstantiated report indicated that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may ask Barak to remain in office for a few more months so that a number of defense-related issues that are already in progress may be completed.

Barak announced he was stepping down from politics after virtually all polls showed that his Independence party, which he formed after quitting Labor, would likely not get enough votes to win Knesset representation.

During his term as Defense Minister, Barak repeatedly thwarted nationalists by ordering middle-of-the-night expulsions of Jewish families, including women and babies, from their homes in outposts. He also has continuously blocked plans for building new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria. The report may be an attempt to influence the many pro-Judea and Samaria voters who are registered Likud members.

According to Channel 10, the reason Netanyahu is considering leaving Barak in his role for now is his huge dislike for his fellow Likud member Moshe Ya’alon, who many have said is a natural candidate for the role of Defense Minister. Ya’alon, a former IDF Chief of Staff, served as Minister of Strategic Affairs in the outgoing government.

The report indicated that Netanyahu’s dislike and distrust of Ya’alon is so great that he had considered taking the Defense Ministry for himself just to keep Ya’alon out of it.

Barak could legally be appointed as Defense Minister, even without being in the Knesset. A similar move was made in 2002, when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed Shaul Mofaz as Defense Minister shortly after he finished his term as Chief of Staff, despite him not having run for the Knesset.

In a similar move in the outgoing government, Justice Minister Ya’akov Neeman was appointed as a non-member of the Knesset.

The final say in the matter will likely be that of Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, according to Channel 10. The report indicated that Lieberman favors his number two, Yair Shamir, son of the late Likud Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, for the position.

Lieberman said on Friday that the option of re-appointing Barak was only in the imagination of political commentators, noting that “there are enough people with a respectable track record in the Likud Beytenu party.”