Barak: I am not running

Former prime minister warns that Israel should be concerned by calls for boycott from Europe and says relations with US have been harmed, but not destroyed.

Ehud Barak
As the country’s political parties begin in earnest drawing up their Knesset candidates lists, Ehud Barak said he is one man who is not in the mix.
Barak, a former prime minister and defense minister, was asked at Globes’s annual Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv on Monday by moderator Richard Quest from CNN whether he would be involved in the campaign, and said, “The table is empty, and I’m not at it.” Asked again later by Quest whether he was sure he was not running in the election, Barak said, “I am certain.”
Israel’s relations with the US is certain to be a central issue in the campaign, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s challengers sure to claim that he has significantly harmed ties with Washington. While over the weekend in Washington both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry said that the relationship – at least in regard to security issues – has never been better, Barak said the relationship with the US, while it was not destroyed, has been hurt.
Barak said that Israel must “respect American sovereignty. I told my friends in the cabinet that we need to respect American sovereignty. They have their own opinions, and we must listen to them. We must respect them. There has never been a perfect symmetry. We must protect our own sovereignty, but, at the same time, promise that we won’t destroy our relationship with the US president, or with the American public. The relationship was not destroyed, but it was damaged.”
Barak said that both Kerry and US President Barack Obama invested a great deal in trying to secure a peace agreement, and their failure should not be a reason to “curse them.” Barak acknowledged that he himself, as well as Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, have all failed in trying to forge an accord with the Palestinians.
Barak also addressed Israel’s relations with Europe, saying that calls from Europe to boycott Israel must be taken seriously, especially since Europe, not the US or China, is Israel’s top trading partner. Regarding the wave of European parliamentary votes recommending the recognition of “Palestine,” Barak said that “we sometimes forget that Israel is a sovereign state, and that when there are vital issues to Israel and its future, we need to make sovereign decisions.”
Also on Monday, the police announced they were closing the investigation into whether Barak had taken bribes, following accusations along those lines by former prime minister Ehud Olmert. The police said they found no evidence to support the allegations.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.