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Why is Ehud Barak leaving Israeli politics? (+video)

Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, shocked many with his announcement Monday that he's leaving politics. Barak was seen as a moderating influence in Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday abruptly announced he was quitting politics, injecting new turmoil into the Israeli political system weeks ahead of general elections.

Barak, Israel's most-decorated soldier and one-time prime minister, said he would stay on in his current post until a new government is formed following the Jan. 22 balloting.

"I feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been an object of desire for me. There are many ways for me to serve the country, not just through politics," he said, adding that his decision was spurred in part by his desire to spend more time with his family.

His resignation could mean the departure of the most moderating influence on hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who holds a wide lead in polls and is expected to easily win re-election. Barak, who heads a small centrist faction in parliament, often served as Netanyahu's unofficial envoy to Washington to smooth over differences with the Obama White House.

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