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Ehud Barak ( , born Ehud Brog on 12 February 1942) is an Israelimarker 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 HaSharonmarker 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 joined the Israeli army.

His paternal grandparents, Frieda and Reuven Brog, were murdered in Pushelat, Lithuania in 1912, leaving his father orphaned at the age of two. Barak’s maternal grandparents, Elka and Shmuel Godin, died at Treblinka.

It was during his military service that he met his future wife, Naava. They had three daughters together. Barak and Naava divorced in August 2003. On 30 July 2007 Barak married Nili Priel in a small ceremony in his private residence.


Barak earned his bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from the Hebrew Universitymarker in Jerusalemmarker in 1968, and his master's degree in engineering-economic systems in 1978 from Stanford Universitymarker 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 Farmmarker.
Ehud Barak with Legion of Merit
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 Airportmarker in 1972; the 1973 covert mission Operation Spring of Youth in Beirutmarker, 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 as 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 close friend Nechemiah Cohen). He was also awarded, in 1993, the Legion of Merit (Commander) by the United Statesmarker.

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

Barak at the Pentagon in 1999

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 Knessetmarker Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. In 1996 Barak became the leader of the Labor Party.

Prime Minister of Israel

Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel on 17 May 1999. 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 Knessetmarker. 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 1999 Barak gave a campaign promise to end Israel's 22-year long occupation of Southern Lebanon within a year. On May 24, 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, along with the living Elhanan Tenenbaum, 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 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 both to the economy’s past performance and by international standards.

Party leader, 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 Knessetmarker 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 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.

Defense Minister

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 would 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.

During December 2008 through January 2009, Barak led (as defense minister) Operation Cast Lead.

2009 Knesset Elections

Labor won only 13 out of the 120 Knesset seats in the 2009 Knesset Elections, making them the fourth largest party. Barak and other Labor Party officials initially stated they would not take part in the next government. However, over the objections of some in the Labor party, Barak later reached an agreement under which Labor joined the governing coalition. Barak retained his position as Defense Minister.

Outside of politics

After losing the 2001 elections to Ariel Sharon, 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, Pennsylvaniamarker. He established a company "Ehud Barak Limited" which is thought to have made over NIS 30 million.

References in popular culture

See also


  1. An image of Barak receiving the award on January 14, 1993 in The Pentagon. Note that according to IDF regulations foreign medals are not worn on the uniform.
  2. Former Israeli PM Barak in New Leadership Bid Reuters, 7 January 2007
  3. "Poll: Barak, Ayalon lead Peretz in the Labor leadership primaries" Haaretz, 3 March 2007)
  4. "Barak wins Labor Party primary election: party officials" International Herald Tribune, 12 June 2007
  5. Ehud Barak Ltd Haaretz


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

External links

  • Ehud Barak - official site
  • 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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