Ehud Barak said looking to partner with ex-general Yair Golan to form new party

Ehud Barak said looking to partner with ex-general Yair Golan to form new party

Former PM and deputy chief of staff trying to recruit a team of veteran politicians, including Tzipi Livni, to run together in September 17 elections

Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv on April 3, 2019 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv on April 3, 2019 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Former prime minister Ehud Barak and former IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan are working together to form a new party ahead of the upcoming elections, Hebrew media reported Sunday.

The two former generals – Barak was IDF chief-of-staff before becoming prime minister – have met several times and are looking to recruit several former Knesset members to their list.

“I’m meeting with good people from the beating heart of Israeli society, when there’s something to announce – I’ll let you know,” Barak said, according to the Ynet news site.

The reports said Barak was particularly focused on recruiting former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

Earlier this month Israel’s three major television news networks reported that Barak was looking at several possible political figures to team up with, including Livni, former Likud minister Dan Meridor, Adina Bar-Shalom, the daughter of the late spiritual leader of Shas Ovadia Yosef, and Golan.

Hatnua party chief Tzipi Livni holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on February 18, 2019, announcing her departure from politics. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Livni, the widely respected veteran legislator and head of the Hatnua party, announced her retirement from politics in February after Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay unceremoniously ended Labor’s partnership with Livni in front of live cameras in a move widely seen as a humiliation.

Barak’s outreach to Livni started several weeks ago and despite her previous declaration of quitting politics, pressure on her to join with Barak has been mounting over the past few days, Ynet reported.

Yair Golan, a newcomer to politics, caused controversy in a national Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in 2016, when he compared trends in Israeli society to those in pre-World War II Germany.

Eloquent in both Hebrew and English, Golan holds a master’s degree from Harvard University. He was wounded but continued to command during a shootout with Hezbollah fighters in 1997 and was a well-regarded officer in the IDF, holding a number of top positions during his 37-year career until he retired in 2017.

Former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan speaks at the ISDEF Defense & HLS Expo in Herzliya on March 26, 2019. (Ronen Topelberg)

On Friday Barak confirmed long-running reports that he is looking to form a new political party ahead of Israel’s second elections of the year.

“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 in an Interview with Channel 12.

However, Barak said that  he would not rejoin the Labor Party that he lead in the 1999 election defeat of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Barak lasted only two years in office and was subsequently ousted from the Labor leadership.

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.

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.

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