Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak

[bair-uhk, bey-rak for 1; buh-rahk for 2]
Barak, Ehud, 1942-, Israeli military and political leader, prime minister of Israel (1999-). The son of East European immigrants in Palestine, he was born Ehud Brog, later adopting the Hebrew name Barak [lightning]. Barak began his military service in 1959, became a major general in 1982, and by 1991 had risen to become the youngest army chief of staff in Israeli history. Known for his bravery, Barak led two successful commando raids, one that stormed a hijacked Belgian airliner (1972), the other that destroyed a terrorist cell in Beirut (1976). As army head, he was instrumental in building a more streamlined and technologically advanced force. He retired in 1994 and that year joined the Labor party.

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.

Prior to his political career he served as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces. Following a highly decorated career he was appointed the 14th Ramatkal (Head of General Staff) of the IDF.


Barak was born on 12 February 1942 in kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon in Mandate Palestine. He is the eldest of four sons of Esther (née Godin) and Israel Brog. Ehud hebraized his family name from "Brog" to "Barak" in 1959, when he began his military service.

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.


Barak earned his bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1968, and his master's degree in engineering-economic systems in 1978 from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Military service

Ehud Brog joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1959. At that time he decided to change his name to "Barak", which means "lightning" or "shine" in Hebrew. He served in the IDF for 35 years, rising to the position of Chief of the General Staff and the rank of Rav Aluf, the highest in the Israeli military. During the Yom Kippur War, Barak commanded an improvised regiment of tanks which among other things, helped rescue paratrooper battalion 890 commanded by Yitzhak Mordechai who were suffering heavy losses in the Battle of the Chinese Farm.

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

Barak is also an expert in krav maga, the official martial art of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Political career

As a politician, Barak served as Minister of the Interior (1995) and then as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-1996). He was elected to the Knesset in 1996, where he served as a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. In 1996 Barak became the leader of the Labor Party.

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.

Arab-Israeli Conflict

In 1999 Barak gave a campaign promise to end Israel's 22-year long occupation of Southern Lebanon within a year. On May 24th, 2000 Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon. On October the 7th, 2000, three Israeli soldiers were captured by Hezbollah and then subsequently killed. The bodies of these soldiers were eventually exchanged for Lebanese captives in 2004. Barak inaugurated peace negotiations with the PLO, which ultimately proved fruitless. Barak also took part in the Camp David 2000 Summit which was meant to finally resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but failed. Barak, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, and US president Bill Clinton placed the blame on Yasser Arafat. Barak claimed he exposed "Arafat's true intentions". Following the failure at Camp David, the Palestinian al-Aqsa Intifada (also known as the Second Intifada) erupted. Barak also allowed Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami to attend the Taba Summit with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, after his government had fallen.

Domestic Issues

Barak was in power during the appointment of the Tal committee which dealt with the controversial issue of haredi Jews' exemption from military service. Riots in October 2000 led to the killing of 12 Israeli-Arabs and 1 Palestinian by Israel Police and one Israeli-Jewish civilian by Israeli Arabs. In 1999–2000, Israel experienced high growth rates (GDP) relative to the economy’s past performance and by international standards.

Post-Prime ministerial career

Business career

After losing the 2001 elections to Ariel Sharon's Likud party by a landslide, Barak left Israel to work as a senior advisor with U.S.-based Electronic Data Systems. He also partnered with a private equity company focused on "security-related" work.

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.

Public speaking

Barak went on a public speaking tour of American colleges, expressing his view on the Middle East. During this tour in 2006, he said that “[Iraq] gradually deteriorates to civil war [and] the US presence is more and more a part of the problem and not the solution.

Return to politics

In 2005, Barak announced his return to Israeli politics, and ran for leadership of the Labor Party in November. However, in light of his weak poll showings, Barak dropped out of the race early and declared his support for veteran statesman Shimon Peres.

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.

Back in Government

After winning back the leadership of the Labor party, Barak was sworn in as Minister of Defense on June 18, 2007, as part of Prime Minister Olmert's cabinet reshuffle. However on 1 July 2007, Barak led a successful effort in the Labor central committee to stipulate that Labor would leave the government coalition if Olmert did not resign by September or October 2007. At that time the Winograd Commission will publish its final report on the performance of the Israel Defense Forces and its civilian leadership. The preliminary Winograd report released earlier this year laid most of the blame on Olmert for poorly planning, executing, and reviewing war strategies in the 2006 conflict against Hezbollah.

References in popular culture

See also


  • Bregman, Ahron Elusive Peace: How the Holy Land Defeated America.
  • Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. Vintage. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
  • Dromi, Uri (Nov. 5, 2005). "Still craving peace 10 years after Rabin". New Straits Times, p. 20.

External links

  • Ehud Barak - official site (in Hebrew)
  • Volume 49, Number 10 · June 13, 2002 Email to a friend Exchange Camp David and After: An Exchange (1. An Interview with Ehud Barak)
  • Ehud Barak, Labor Ynetnews

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