Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak abruptly threw in the towel today, quitting politics in a stunning resignation that cleaves Israel from one of its key moderate voices at a critical crossroads for the nation. The decorated general and former PM will complete his current term, but his resignation comes ahead of Jan. 22 elections; his Independence Party had recently seen a surge in polls after clashes in the Gaza Strip, notes the AP. "I didn't make this decision without hesitating, but I made it wholeheartedly," he told a news conference today.
"I feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been an object of desire for me," continued the 70-year-old. But he left the door open to other avenues of contribution, saying, "There are many ways for me to serve the country." Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu—who had recently clashed with Barak over whether to strike Iran, and who is expected to win re-election—thanked Barak for his service, but YNet News notes that many in the Likud Party had sought his replacement and not everyone was shedding tears: "Barak's leadership (has) totally misread the political situation in the Middle East," said Environmental Minister Gilad Erdan. The AP notes that Barak had often served as Netanyahu's unofficial envoy to Washington in order to smooth over differences with the Obama White House. (Read more Ehud Barak stories.)