Barak, Ehud

Barak, Ehud

(ā`kho͞od bäräk`), 1942–, Israeli military and political leader, prime minister of Israel (1999–2001). 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 RabinRabin, Yitzhak
, 1922–95, Israeli general and statesman, b. Jerusalem, the first native-born prime minister of Israel (1974–77, 1992–95). His extensive military experience began in 1940 when he joined the Haganah (Jewish militia) and thereafter fought in the
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, his military and political mentor, and was (1995–96) foreign minister under Shimon PeresPeres, Shimon
, 1923–2016, Israeli politician, b. Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus) as Shimon Perski. His family immigrated to Palestine in 1934; his grandparents, who remained in Poland, were killed in the Holocaust.
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. He assumed leadership of the Labor party in 1997, decisively defeated the Likud prime minister Benjamin NetanyahuNetanyahu, Benjamin or Binyamin
, 1949–, Israeli diplomat and politician, prime minister of Israel (1996–99, 2009–), b. Tel Aviv.
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 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 SharonSharon, Ariel
, 1928–2014, Israeli general and politician, b. Kfar Malal as Ariel Scheinerman. As a teenager he joined the Haganah, the underground Zionist military brigade, and took his Hebrew name from the Sharon Plain, where he worked in 1947.
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. 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 OlmertOlmert, Ehud
, 1945–, Israeli politician. After serving in the army and working as a lawyer, he won election to the Knesset in 1973 as a Likud candidate. Under Prime Minister Shamir he was minister without portfolio (1988–90) and minister of health (1990–92).
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, espousing more hard-line approach to Palestinian relations. Barak continued in the post (2009–13) when a coalition led by Netanyahu and Likud took office, and in 2011 he split with more dovish members of the Labor party and formed the Independence party. He did not run in the 2013 elections, but helped form and became the leader of the Israeli Democratic party in 2019.


See biography by I. Kfir (1999).

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