Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Friday confirmed long-running reports that he is looking to form a new political party ahead of Israel’s second elections of the year.
In an interview with Channel 12 news, Barak denied that he would go back to the Labor Party but said he would consider joining his former party to form an anti-Netanyahu bloc.
“I won’t run from within the Labor Party. I decided to explore the need to set up a party and soon I’ll announce if I will run on a slate for the next elections [in September],” he said.
Last week, Israel’s three major news networks reported that Barak was looking at several possible political figures to team up with, including former leader of the Hatnua party Tzipi Livni, former Likud minister Dan Meridor, Adina Bar-Shalom, the daughter of the late spiritual leader of Shas Ovadia Yosef, and former deputy army chief of staff Yair Golan.
Barak refused to confirm who he has been talking to, saying that he is “talking to everyone to see whether I, and people like me, can bring about a union of forces in the center-left that will prevent what happened in the last elections.”
“I’m interested in seeing if we can put together a bloc that can defeat [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. The bloc is the main thing, not the party,” he said, adding that the center-left parties needed to change their tactics.
He refused to say if he would insist on leading the bloc.
In the April elections, the centrist Blue and White party under former army chief Benny Gantz received the same number of Knesset seats as Netanyahu’s Likud, but had no path to forming a coalition.
Netanyahu, too, ultimately failed to put together a majority coalition and dissolved the 120-member Knesset.
Rumors of Barak’s intentions to reenter politics have long been gestating. Though he served as defense minister in Netanyahu’s government between 2009-2013 — even breaking up Labor in 2011 and forming the short-lived Independence party to remain in the cabinet — Barak in recent years has become one of Netanyahu’s fiercest critics.
Barak was previously reported to have sent out feelers to Labor Knesset members, seeking their support for him to temporarily head the struggling party for a year and see it through the elections.
But Barak said he decided it was not the correct path for him.
“I had more than one offer to head Labor. I decided that it is not right to run for Labor leader,” he said, adding that he did not want to throw his support behind any of the candidates running to replace Avi Gabbay who resigned after leading the historic party to its worst-ever showing of just 6 seats.
It is not the first time Barak, 77, has considered a political comeback.
The ex-premier and army chief has tested the waters several times over the years and hinted last December that he would run if a center-left political bloc was formed, but ended up sitting out April’s elections.