Ehud Barak, Israel’s current Defense Minister, announced he is retiring from politics.

The Times of Israel provides this brief bio:

Born on a kibbutz in 1942, Barak was central to the early successes of the IDF’s most elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, and is the most decorated soldier in Israeli Army history, having taken part in a number of daring raids that earned him a reputation as a defense stalwart.

He entered politics with the left-wing Labor Party in the mid-1990s and succeeded Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister in 1999, serving concurrently as defense minister.

As prime minister, he sought to conclude a permanent peace accord with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, initiating and participating in 2000′s abortive negotiations at Camp David hosted by US president Bill Clinton. Rebuffed by Arafat after offering an Israeli withdrawal from almost all of the West Bank, Barak later said he had “removed the mask” from Arafat, exposing the Palestinian leader as unwilling to agree to the compromises necessary for a viable two-state solution. Nonetheless, Barak remained committed to advancing talks with the Palestinians and was trounced in elections in 2001 by the hard-liner Ariel Sharon, forcing him out of politics.

After a failed bid for the head of Labor in 2005, he eventually won back the post of defense minister under Ehud Olmert in 2007 after rising from the ashes and winning the leadership of Labor for a second time.

After Netanyahu was elected for a second term in 2009, Barak stayed on as defense minister, eventually spinning off his own Independence party once Labor began to drift away from the ruling right-wing coalition.

I’m doubtful it will last, but for now, it’s news:

This is the second time Barak is resigning from politics. The first followed his loss of the premiership to Ariel Sharon in 2001. In 2002, Barak went into business, becoming a multi-millionaire, and returned to politics five years later as defense minister under then-prime minister Ehud Olmert.

The diminutive soldier is best remembered not for his politics, but for his actions in 1973:

She remembers the sounds of gunfire and people shouting in the street below. She remembers that the electricity suddenly went out in her apartment but that a strong light still shone through the peephole in her door.

She crept toward it and looked out but saw nothing. “Then I heard one word,” the woman, now 80, recalls. ” ‘Hit!’ I jumped back and my door exploded open. All the doors of the building flew open.”

It was just after midnight on April 10, 1973, and Israeli commandos had stormed her apartment building in the elegant Snoubra district of the Lebanese capital.

Minutes later, three senior officials of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization were dead, shot in their homes in a bold undercover operation that shook the guerrilla movement and led to tensions between Lebanon and the PLO.

For Ehud Barak, the man who led the raid dressed as a woman, the operation still ranks as one of his commando unit’s greatest successes.

More details on Operation Spring of Youth are at the IDF blog, including the fact that another commando on that mission was Yoni Netanyahu, brother of Bibi, who later was killed during the Entebbe rescue operation.

Barak also led other operations, including the freeing of hostages on a Sabena Airlines plane which had been hijacked.  (Image showing him helping people off the airplane here.)

Prediction:  There will be a crisis (there always is in Israel) which will cause Barak to reconsider and he will come back, once again, as a rescuer.