Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak shook up the Israeli political system on Monday with the abrupt announcement that he is quitting politics and will not run in general elections in January.

Mr. Barak, who is also a former prime minister, says he’ll stay on in his current post until a new government is formed following the Jan. 22 balloting.

The defence minister made the surprise announcement even after polls showed his breakaway Independence Party gaining momentum after Israel’s recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who enjoyed a close working relationship for most of the past four years, reportedly have fallen out over whether to defer to the U.S. on any attack against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Mr. Barak’s detractors in Netanyahu’s Likud Party wanted him replaced.

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