When Defense Minister Ehud Barak was running for Labor leader in 2007, a reporter took his baby daughter to a campaign event at the party’s Jerusalem branch and asked him for a quote.

Looking at the baby, Barak quipped: “You can vote for me when I am Shimon’s age,” referring to President Shimon Peres, who is 89.

Following Barak’s announcement Monday that he intends to retire from politics when the next government is formed following the January 22 election, was what he said to the baby another broken campaign promise?

Or was Barak lying when he said he was retiring?

Although it seems now that the two pronouncements contradict each other, it might be proven later that in both instances, he was telling the truth.

What Barak said at his press conference can be taken at face value. He really, honestly, wants to retire now. He has served the country for more than 50 years, he is 70 years old, and filthy rich.

Why can’t a septuagenarian have a swan song? Why can’t he travel the world and enjoy life? His brother Avinoam Brog said Barak told him he wants to visit Machu Picchu in Peru. Shouldn’t he have that right?

And yet Barak seemed to purposely leave an opening in his press conference for a comeback. He evaded questions about whether he would accept a professional appointment as defense minister like Moshe Dayan received, saying only that such a question would be answerable after the election.

Barak could have entered the next Knesset. Especially after Operation Pillar of Defense, with his fledgling Independence Party passing the two percent electoral threshold in nearly every poll. Or he could have merged his party with another party on the Center-Left.

But for Barak, winning three seats or playing second-fiddle to the likes of Tzipi Livni would have been demeaning. As Israel’s most decorated soldier, who accomplished a lot in the Defense Ministry, he believes he deserves more respect and appreciation from the public.

An Independence Party source said Barak noticed that former prime minister Ehud Olmert, despite his conviction, has recently been treated by the Center-Left as nothing less than a potential political messiah. Even the idea of a Peres comeback ahead of the next election was taken seriously for a few days.

Right now, even when the Center-Left is clamoring for a new leader, no one has been clamoring for Barak. But later on, who knows? That later on could be in a few months, a few years or even two decades from now.

As the old joke goes, Israel is not so good at recycling paper or plastic, but it is very good at recycling politicians.

So perhaps that baby will indeed vote for Barak some day. And maybe next time they meet, he can show her his souvenirs from Machu Picchu.

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