Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Monday he will bow out of politics and give up  his post when a new government is formed after elections in January.

"I want to study, to write, to live and have a good time," he said, the BBC reported.

Barak, 70, has been defense minister since 2007. From 1999 to 2001 he served as prime minister, and had a long and distinguished career in the Israel Defense Forces from 1959 to 1995. He has been labeled the most decorated soldier in the nation's history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Barak for his service in a Twitter post, writing that he respected the decision and “appreciates his contribution to the security of the state.”

Barak, formerly the head of the center-left Labor Party, is viewed as a balancing figure in Netanyahu’s conservative government. He broke away from Labor in 2011 when the bulk of the party quit Netanyahu's coalition, and formed the Independence Party, which stayed in.

While Barak and Netanyahu have had a relatively cooperative relationship over the past four years, the two have disagreed over consulting with the U.S. in addressing Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu has left open unilateral options, incluiding an attack to stop Iran, while Barak has supported bilateral actions with the U.S.

Barak’s Independence Party is expected to gain more seats in the upcoming general elections, but he said he felt it was the right time to depart from politics.

"I feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been an object of desire for me,” he said, the Guardian reported. “There are many ways for me to serve the country, not just through politics."