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Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s retirement from politics was met with mixed reactions on Monday, with some on the Right wishing him good riddance and others saying his departure was unfortunate.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Barak after his announcement, thanking him for his work in the government.
“I hugely esteem his many years of contribution to the State of Israel’s security,” Netanyahu said to his former commander in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance Unit). “We experienced together days in suits and days in combat fatigues.”
Others in the Likud were not as kind to Barak in their reactions to his resignation.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan promised he would do all he could to convince Netanyahu not to appoint Barak as defense minister in the next government.
“Barak contributed a lot to national security, but I disagree with his ideology and strategic worldview,” Erdan said. “In recent years, he was against settlements in Judea and Samaria. His path does not suit that of the Likud.”
Erdan added that he would prefer a nationalist defense minister in the next government.
“Today is Independence Day for the Likud,” Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein wrote on his Facebook profile. “Barak will go down in history books as the worst defense minister for Jewish settlement.”
According to Edelstein, Barak’s judgment was marred by politics and egoism and was characterized by harm to settlements and evacuations of outposts.
“I won’t be surprised if he takes the first opportunity to return to politics,” he added.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich called Barak’s departure “unfortunate,” as he is one of the most respected security figures in the world who contributed more to national security than the public will ever know.
“His great experience brought him the defense ministry, where he behaved responsibly and professionally,” Yacimovich stated. “I wish him luck on his new path and hope he continues contributing to the State of Israel when needed.”
Later Monday, Yacimovich said at a Labor activists’ event that she thanks Barak twice: first for leaving the Labor party and allowing for its revival, and second for his contribution to Israel’s security.
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party thanked Barak for his years of service to the country, its security and its defense.
On the Right, Strong Israel leaders Arieh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari said “good riddance” to Barak, adding that now Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman can authorize all of the settlements in Judea and Samaria that Barak blocked.
Otherwise, they added, “it will be proven that Barak was only an excuse and the prime minister is responsible for the alienation of settlers.”
Newly elected Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett said that Barak made great contributions to national security, and many owe him their lives.
However, Bennett added, “we are seeing the last days of old politics, which brought frustration to reservists and residents of the South in the last week.”
Independence MK Einat Wilf said, “the outbreaks of jubilation on the extreme Right are testimony to the depth of his influence and that of the [Independence] party in the government, and the the manner in which he waged daily battles to ensure that Israel’s strategic interests were not hijacked by extreme and irresponsible groups.”
Wilf added that she has no doubt that Barak will continue to contribute to Israel’s foreign policy and security strategy.
“I call on Netanyahu to announce that in the next government, the defense minister will be committed to Israeli security without compromises,” Bennett stated.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said Barak played two roles in politics.
“I praised him when he blocked extremist moves, but sometimes he was the one who led and pushed them,” she said.
“There is something symbolic about the fact that Barak, who invented the spin that there is ‘no partner for peace,’ who disappointed and did not sign an agreement with the Palestinians and did not end the occupation as expected from him, is quitting the week that his partner is stretching out his hand to peace and asking for recognition as a state,” Gal-On added.
“Now is the time to fix the historic damage Barak did.”
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