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last updated Jan. 18, 2011 12:1 PM (EST+7)
Ehud Barak
Read more: 
Israeli politics Labor Labour Independence Atzmaut
Leader of Independence (Atzmaut) faction and former chairman of the Labor party, deputy prime minister and minister of defense in the 18th Knesset.

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Barak was born in 1942 in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon. He joined the Israeli military in 1959 and served as a soldier, as a commander of an elite unit and  in various other command positions. During the 1967 Six Day War, Barak served as a reconnaissance group commander. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he was a tank battalion commander. Barak obtained a BSc in Physics and Mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1976 and an MSc in engineering-economic systems from Stanford University in California in 1978.

In January 1982, he was appointed head of the Israeli military planning branch and promoted to major general. During the 1982 ‘Peace for Galilee’ operation, Barak served as deputy commander of the Israeli military forces in Lebanon.

In April 1983, Barak was appointed head of the intelligence branch at the Israeli military general headquarters. In January 1986 he was appointed commander of the central command and in May 1987 he became deputy chief-of-staff.  In April 1991 he was made chief of the general staff and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

Barak has been awarded the “Distinguished Service Medal” and four other citations for courage and operational excellence.

From July to November 1995 Barak served as minister of interior, and from November 1995 until June 1996 he served as minister of foreign affairs.

He was first elected to the Knesset in 1996 and served as a member of the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee. In 1996 he was also elected chairman of the Labor Party, and in 1999 he formed the “One Israel” list from the Labor, Gesher and Meimad factions.

In May 1999 Barak was elected prime minister. He presented his government to the Knesset in July 1999, assuming office as prime minister and minister of defense. He controversially formed a coalition with the Shas party, prompting the Meretz party to quit the coalition. During his term as prime minister he withdrew Israel from Southern Lebanon. He also initiated negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and participated in the Camp David Summit of 2000. His term ended in March 2001, following his defeat by Ariel Sharon in the February special elections for prime minister.

In June 2007 he was elected to lead the Labor Party, and since March 2009 he was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of defense in the Benjamin Netanyahu government.
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