Barak Might Stay On For a While

YERUSHALAYIM -

Defense Minister Ehud Barak may stay on at his post for a few months after the elections, according to an unconfirmed report in the Israeli media.

Barak recently announced his retirement from politics, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may ask him to remain in office at least long enough to conclude certain outstanding defense-related issues.

Barak could legally be appointed as Defense Minister, even without being in the Knesset. In 2002, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed Shaul Mofaz as Defense Minister shortly after he finished his term as Chief of Staff, though he was not a Knesset member.

Although outgoing ministers customarily continue at their posts until the process of assembling a new government is concluded — which could take two months — Barak might be held over for longer than that.

If true, Barak’s extended presence in the government will undoubtedly incense right-wing MKs, who view him as an impediment to strengthening the Jewish presence in Yehudah and Shomron and eagerly look forward to his replacement.

Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon has been most often mentioned as a more acceptable candidate for the job. However, senior coalition partner Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman reportedly favors his number two, Yair Shamir, son of the late Likud Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, for the position.

Lieberman dismissed as a fantasy of political commentators the suggestion that Barak might be re-appointed, asserting that “there are enough people with a respectable track record in the Likud-Beiteinu party” to succeed him.