Barak began his political career (1995) as interior minister in the cabinet of Yitzhak Rabin, his military and political mentor, and was (1995-96) foreign minister under Shimon Peres. He assumed leadership of the Labor party in 1997, decisively defeated the Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1999, and formed a seven-party coalition government; three right-of-center parties pulled out of the government in 2000. Like Rabin, another soldier turned prime minister, Barak advocated a strong, peace-seeking, and inclusive Israel (under his leadership Labor was renamed the One Israel party) and avowed a willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians and to Arab states if necessary for peace and security.
After the breakdown of negotiations with the Palestinians and the resumption of violence (Sept., 2000), as well as the splintering of his coalition, Barak resigned (Dec., 2000) to force an early election for prime minister in an attempt to regain public support, but in Feb., 2001, he was soundly defeated by Likud candidate Ariel Sharon. After his electoral rout, Barak bowed out of politics. In 2007 he made a comeback when he won the leadership of the Labor party and became defense minister under Ehud Olmert, espousing more hard-line approach to Palestinian relations. Barak continued in the post in 2009 when a coalition led by Netanyahu and Likud took office.
See biography by I. Kfir (1999).
Ehud Barak (אֵהוּד בָּרָק, born Ehud Brog on 12 February 1942) is an Israeli politician, former Prime Minister, and current Minister of Defense, deputy prime minister and leader of Israel's Labor Party.
Barak served as the 10th Prime Minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001. After losing the 2001 election, Barak embarked on a business career. On 12 June 2007 he completed a political comeback by winning the Labor Party leadership election. He was appointed as Minister of Defense, replacing outgoing party leader Amir Peretz.
It was during his military service that he met his future wife, Naava. They had three daughters together. Ehud and Naava divorced in August 2003. On 30 July 2007 Ehud married Nili Priel in a small ceremony at his private residence.
During his service as a commando in the elite Sayeret Matkal, Barak led several highly acclaimed operations, such as: "Operation Isotope", the rescue mission to free the hostages onboard Sabena Flight 572 at Lod Airport in 1972; the 1973 covert mission Operation Spring of Youth in Beirut, in which he was disguised as a woman in order to assassinate members of the Palestine Liberation Organization; Barak was also a key architect of the June 1976 Operation Entebbe, another rescue mission to free the hostages of the Air France aircraft hijacked by terrorists and forced to land at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. These highly acclaimed operations, along with Operation Bayonet led to the dismantling of Palestinian terrorist cell Black September and a decline in international terrorism for over 20 years . It has been alluded that Barak also masterminded the Tunis Raid on April 16, 1988, in which PLO leader Abu Jihad was assassinated.
Later he served as head of Aman, the Military Intelligence Directorate (1983-1985), head of Central Command (1986 - 1987) and Deputy Chief of the General Staff (1987-1991). He served Chief of the General Staff between April 1 1991 and January 1 1995. During this period he implemented the first Oslo Accords and participated in the negotiations towards the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace.
Barak was awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service and four Chief of Staff citations (Tzalash HaRamatcal) for courage and operational excellence. These five decorations make him the most decorated soldier in Israeli history (jointly with Nechemya Cohen). In addition he was awarded in 1993 the Legion of Merit (Commander) by the United States
Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel on 17 May 1999. When forming his coalition, Barak sparked controversy by deciding to form a coalition with the haredi party Shas who had received an unprecedented 17 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Shas grudgingly agreed to Barak's terms that they eject their leader Aryeh Deri, a convicted felon, and enact reform to "clean up" in-party corruption. Consequentially, the left wing Meretz party quit the coalition after they failed to agree on the powers to be given to a Shas deputy-minister in the Ministry of Education.
In 2005, following his failed attempt to maintain leadership of the Labor party, Barak became a partner of the investment company SCP Private Equity Partners, Pennsylvania. He established a company "Ehud Barak Limited" which is thought to have made over NIS 30 million.
After Peres lost the race to Amir Peretz and left the Labor party, Barak announced he would stay at the party, despite his shaky relationship with its newly elected leader. He declared, however, that he would not run for a spot on the Labor party's Knesset list for the March 2006 elections.
In January 2007 Barak launched a bid to recapture the leadership of the Labor party in a letter acknowledging "mistakes" and "inexperience" during his tenure as Prime Minister. In early March of 2007, a poll of Labor Party primary voters put Barak ahead of all other opponents, including current leader Amir Peretz. In the first round of voting, on 28 May 2007, he gained 39% of the votes, more than his two closest rivals, but not enough to win the election.
As a result, Barak faced a runoff against the second-place finisher, Ami Ayalon, on June 12 2007, which he won by a narrow margin.