Barak Resigns as Prime Minister President Bill Clinton greets PM Ehud Barak at the White House, April 11, 2000. Photo: GPO Israel

December 10, 2000

Prime Minister Ehud Barak submits his surprise resignation to President Moshe Katsav amid domestic and international political chaos and calls for a special election for prime minister within 60 days rather than a general Knesset election. The move offers him the chance to seek a popular vote of confidence in a direct election against the Likud leader, Ariel Sharon, and to avoid a rematch against Benjamin Netanyahu, who is ineligible to run because he left the Knesset after losing the premiership to Barak in 1999.

“I, as prime minister, who was elected by a large majority, intend to ask the nation’s permission to continue the path that we started on in the secure belief this is the right and true and only way for the the state of Israel,” Barak says in a public announcement of his intentions the previous night.

The Labor leader, who used peace promises to defeat incumbent Netanyahu and become Israel’s 10th prime minister in 1999, completed the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, only to see three Israeli soldiers killed in a Hezbollah raid in October. He held direct peace talks with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at Camp David in July 2000, but the Second Intifada exploded in deadly violence in October after those negotiations failed.

In his resignation announcement, Barak references the state of emergency amid the violence and the need to continue dialogue toward the achievement of a broad peace in the Middle East.

Barak receives only 37% of the votes in losing the special election to Sharon on Feb. 6, 2001, and officially leaves office March 7. The retired general resigns from the Knesset and steps down as Labor leader in a political exile that lasts until 2005