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Ehud Barak

(1942 - )

Ehud Barak is a former Israeli special forces commando, IDF Chief of Staff and Israeli government minister, including Prime Minister.

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. 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.

General Barak was awarded the "Distinguished Service Medal" and four other citations for courage and operational excellence.

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 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.

Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel on May 17, 1999. He presented his government to the Knesset on July 6, 1999, assuming office as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

On December 10, 2000, Barak shocked the Israeli people by announcing his resignation from the premiereship yet calling for special elections, in which he would run again, to determine a new Prime Minister. In a press conference, Barak said: "I will officially advise the president of my resignation (and) in 60 days ... go to special elections for prime minister... Due to the emergency situation the country is in ... and the need to continue reducing the violence and moving forward the chances of peace negotiations, I have decided to ask again for the mandate of the people of Israel."

Barak's decision to resign and schedule a special election came after it became clear the Knesset was going to call new elections. It was viewed as a shrewd political move because according to the Basic Law: The government, only current Knesset members, whose party is represented with at least 10 seats, are allowed to run in a special election. By calling for such an election, Barak effectively removed his principal challeneger, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was not at the time a Knesset member. Barak assumed he could then defeat Likud Party head Ariel Sharon.

However, sixty days later, Sharon defeated Barak in the special election. Barak completed his term as Prime Minister on March 7, 2001.

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.

In January 2011, Barak formed a breakaway party with other Labor Party legislators called Atzmaut (Independence). In November 2012, Barak announced he will leave political life after the January 2013 Israeli elections.

He is married and the father of three children.

Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs