Ehud Barak: No plans to return to politics 'at this stage'

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak tells Arutz Sheva that he has no plans to return and lead the struggling Zionist Union party.

Tzvi Lev ,

Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Flash 90

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak dismissed reports that he is planning a political comeback in order to reverse the Zionist Union's dismal showing in the polls, telling Arutz Sheva that he does not have any plans to return "at this stage".

However, the use of the rejoinder "at this stage" suggests that Barak may still be considering his future in politics.

Recent polls have shown the Zionist Union's support dwindling among the public, with an Israel Hayom poll on Thursday finding that the party would only get 10 seats in the next election. A recent Channel 20 said that senior Zionist Union officials have quietly reached out to Barak and asked him to return to the party in order to reverse its poor electoral showing.

The report also said that a number of Zionist Union activists have been preparing a petition calling on current leader Avi Gabbay to step down in order to pave the way for Barak's return.

Barak had retired from political life in 2013 but has been rumored to be planning his return ever since. In August, Israel Hayom reported that Barak and Gabbay had been in talks to lay the groundwork for Barak to be given a “safe” seat on the party’s Knesset list without having to run in the primaries.

The arrangement would involve Barak agreeing not to challenge Gabbay in future leadership races in exchange for a high position on the party’s Knesset list. Barak would also lead a new committee of security experts to advise Gabbay – to be called the “security cadre”.

In November, Barak claimed that he is "more ready and qualified to lead Israel than all other candidates around – including Netanyahu, who cannot make decisions".

A week later, Haaretz reported that Barak associates had formed an NGO titled 'Achrayut Leumit – Yisrael Habayit Sheli" (Hebrew for “national responsibility – Israel is my home”) that would assist Barak to return to politics.

Barak has continuously blasted Netanyahu and his government, even though he once split the Labor party and formed the short-lived Independence party so he could continue to serve as Netanyahu's Defense Minister.

Among other things, the former prime minister recently accused the government of leading towards a reality of one state with an Arab majority.

He previously attacked Netanyahu on Twitter and called him “a deceptive and cowardly Prime Minister”, following reports that Netanyahu rejected a document about a regional peace initiative.

Israel’s shortest-serving Prime Minister, Barak defeated Binyamin Netanyahu during his first term in May 1999, but was removed from office in a landslide election less than two years later in February 2001. During his term, he ordered the IDF retreat from the Lebanese buffer security zone it had held for 15 years, paving the way for Hezbollah takeover and, in the words of experts, providing a “tipping point” for jihadist groups across the Middle East who saw the withdrawal as a sign of weakness..

After his 2001 defeat, Barak retired from politics, but returned in 2007, winning back control of the Labor party. He was appointed as Defense Minister by Ehud Olmert later that year, a position he held until the 2013 election.