Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said he will "leave political life" and not stand in January's national election.

The surprise announcement brings to an end a 53-year-long career in Israel's military and political establishments, including a two year stint as prime minister between 1999 and 2001.

According to Reuters, Barak told a news conference: "I have decided to retire from political life and not to run for the next Knesset ... I will end my term as defence minister once the next government is established, in about three months.

ehud barak

The announcement brings to an end a long and eventful career


"I want to dedicate more time to my family. I feel I have exhausted dealing with political life, which has never been a passion of mine, and I feel there is room to allow other people to serve in senior roles in Israel."

Barak, now 70, was instrumental in a number of historic events in Israeli history.

Ehud Barack led the 1972 operation against Black September terrorists who had hi-jacked a commercial airliner.

After they landed, Barak, disguised as a ground technician, convinced the hijackers the plane needed urgent maintenance.

Taken in by the ruse Barak then overpowered them, killing two men in the process.

He also played a crucial role in the Entebbe airport raid.

Whilst serving as Chief of General Staff he helped implement the Oslo peace accords in 1993.

Barak, who was prime minister from 1999 to 2001, campaigned to hold detailed negotiations with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

However his government collapsed before the plans came to fruition and he lost power to the more right-wing Ariel Sharon.

Barak returned to politics in 2007 when he regained leadership of the Labour party. He has been a staunch supporter of Israel's tough stance on Iran.

He is currently leader of the breakaway party, Atzmaut.

According to Reuters, Atzmaut are showing little support in polls despite a recent surge in popularity due to the bombardment of Gaza this month.