Ehud Barak was born in 1942 in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon. He joined the Israel Defense Forces in 1959, and served as a soldier and commander of an elite unit, and in various other command positions including Tank Brigade Commander and Armored Division Commander, and General Staff positions, including Head of the IDF Intelligence Branch. During the 1967 Six Day War, Barak served as a reconnaissance group commander, and in the 1973 Yom Kippur War as a tank battalion commander on the southern front in Sinai. Colonel Barak was a key architect in the June 1976 Entebbe Operation for the rescue of passengers on the Air-France aircraft hijacked by terrorists and forced to land at the Entebbe airport in Uganda.
In January 1982, he was appointed Head of the IDF Planning Branch and promoted to Major General. During the 1982 "Peace for Galilee" operation, Major General Barak served as Deputy Commander of the Israeli force in Lebanon. In April 1983, Maj.Gen. Barak was appointed Head of the Intelligence Branch at the IDF General Headquarters. In January 1986, he was appointed Commander of the IDF Central Command, and in May 1987 was appointed Deputy Chief-of-Staff. In April 1991, he assumed the post of the 14th Chief of the General Staff and was promoted to the rank of Lt. General, the highest in the Israeli military. Following the May 1994 signing of the Gaza-Jericho agreement with the Palestinians, Lt. General Barak oversaw the IDF's redeployment in the Gaza Strip and Jericho. He played a central role in finalizing the peace treaty with Jordan, signed in 1994, and met with his Syrian counterpart as part of the Syrian-Israeli negotiations. In the course of his military service, Ehud Barak was awarded the "Distinguished Service Medal" and four additional citations for outstanding courage and valor, making him the most decorated soldier in the history of the Israel Defense Forces.
He served as Minister of the Interior from July-November 1995 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from November 1995 until June 1996. Elected to the Knesset in 1996, he served as a Member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
In 1996 Barak was elected Chairman of the Labor Party and in 1999 formed the One Israel Party from the Labor, Gesher and Meimad factions. Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel in May 1999. He presented his government to the Knesset in July 1999, assuming office as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. He completed his term in March 2001, following his defeat by Ariel Sharon in the February special election for prime minister.
Barak's reputation as political leader did not match his reputation as a military leader. His tenure as prime minister from 1999 to 2001 was short and controversial, and resulted in the Second Intifada which in turn led to his party's rout in the next election. Barak re-entered politics in 2007, however, and some in Labor had high hopes that that he would help return the party to relevance following a steady decline in its electoral fortunes.
In June 2007, Ehud Barak was elected to head the Labor Party, and was subsequently appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense in the Netanyahu government in March 2009.
Barak's brought Netanyahu a valued and steady hand in Israel's top ministry. Barak, Israel's most highly decorated soldier, had served as Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff, Prime Minister and his own Defense Minister, and then again Defense Minister under Prime Minister Olmert. Barak was at one point Netanyahu's commander in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, and the two men are believed to have formed a bond from that period that extends to today. Netanyahu greatly values Barak's military experience, especially when considering the potential threats facing Israel from Iran, Syria, Hizballah, and HAMAS. Furthermore, Barak, despite heading the more dovish Labor party, did not differ significantly from Netanyahu on foreign and defense policy. He had a relatively hawkish stand on regional threats and, though he advocated peace talks and supports the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, he remained skeptical of the Palestinian leadership's willingness and ability to conclude and implement a peace deal at this time.
Barak holds a B.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1976), and an M.Sc. in Engineering-Economic Systems from Stanford University, California (1978). He is married and the father of three children.
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