Former PM Ehud Barak announces Knesset run in still unnamed party

Returning to politics, which he left in 2013, Barak condemned Netanyahu’s “corrupt leadership” and the “radical messianic zealots” in the current government.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News 

Even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was consulting with the parliamentary speaker about canceling September’s election, former prime minister Ehud Barak announced that he intended to defeat Netanyahu in the election, scheduled for September 17.

At a Tel Aviv news conference on Wednesday, Barak, who has also served as defense minister and IDF chief of staff, announced that he was returning to politics, forming a new party, still unnamed, and would run in the upcoming ballot.

Trying to tap into a sentiment that the newly-formed Blue and White bloc had not challenged Netanyahu sufficiently in the campaign leading up to April’s Knesset election, Barak said at his news conference that “this is no time to sit on the fence.”

Barak, whose terms as defense minister included a period in a previous Netanyahu government, said that the current Netanyahu coalition includes “radical messianic zealots.” Newly appointed cabinet minister Bezalel Smotrich recently stated that Israel should be run by Torah law.

Barak also condemned the prime minister’s “corrupt leadership.” Netanyahu is facing indictments, pending a hearing, in three alleged cases of corruption.

The 77-year old Barak was once Netanyahu’s commander in the IDF.

His term as prime minister lasted only from 1999 to 2001. In May 2000, he pulled Israeli forces out of a southern Lebanon security zone where Israeli troops had been posted since the launching of an IDF operation in 1982 against terrorists who had been attacking the Jewish State from Lebanese territory.

During his brief term as prime minister, Barak also set a timetable to achieve a permanent status agreement with the Palestinian Authority in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza and sign a peace treaty with Syria. Both efforts failed.

In the April Knesset election, Netanyahu’s Likud party and Blue and White each won 35 seats in the 120-member parliament. Parties comprising a majority of MKs in the new Knesset voiced support for Netanyahu, but the incumbent prime minister failed in securing agreements to formalize a governing majority.

The Knesset then voted to hold a new election in September despite an outcry over the waste of money and instability that the political uncertainty was causing.

However, critics of the prime minister are charging that he is trying to cancel the election only because he is afraid that he will fair poorer this time around.

Barak’s announcement is seen as a move to force the hand of political parties into insisting that the September ballot go ahead as planned.