Bookmark and Share

Open the online Arabic language course

Open map of IsraelFlag of IsraelIsrael / Politics /
Ehud Barak
Hebrew: ehud barak

Ehud Barak.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Ehud Barak.

(1942-) Israeli Prime Minister (1999-2001) and leader of the Labour party (1997-2001).
Ehud Barak formed in 1999 a government consisting of 7 parties, which together possessed 75 out of 120 seats of the Knesset. The parties represented different political views: it was expected that Barak might face a continuous struggle of keeping the alliance together. This did happen, and by the end of 2000, only 30 representatives in the Knesset were supporting the government.
Barak is considered as both a forceful military, being the country's most decorated soldier, as well as a talented negotiator between different groups and interests. Yet, at the time when he was elected prime minister, commentators pointed to his dominant military background and his inadequate political experience as a potential problem. It soon became evident that Barak's lack of political experience was a greater deficit than had been predicted. Where he considered himself as a shrewd and elegant politician, his opponents saw him as clumsy and out of touch with reality and people around him.
Barak was considered to be less open towards the so-called peace process with the Palestinian authorities than many other members of the Labour party. He was the only parliament member of the Labour party who abstained from voting in favour of agreements intended to promote the process. Under him, the peace process came to a standstill and many parts of the agreement were violated by Israel under his rule.
Yet, Barak has expressed opinions in favour of giving up occupied land in exchange for peace, which could have lead to an agreement with Syria. This never materialized during his days in office.
In February 2001, Barak was ousted from politics. He was until the very end the only one believing that he had a chance to win as prime minister against Ariel Sharon, but he lost with a humiliating margin of 20%. His lack of political talent had become so evident that he had to resign as leader of the Labour Party as well. His chances for a come-back do not appear to be substantial. It is clear that most will r egard him as the weakest prime minister in Israel's history so far.
An economic adviser to Yasir Arafat once described Barak's way of dealing with the Palestinians like this: "Mr. Barak enters a room, he tells the Palestinians the Israeli position, he tells the Palestinians the Palestinian position, then he explains the one way that the positions can be bridged, bludgeoning with his overwhelming logic."

1942: Born in the kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon in Palestine.
1959: Joins the Israeli Defence Forces.
1976: Receives a Bachelor's degree in Physics and Mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
1978: Receives a Master's degree in Economic-Engineering Systems from Stanford University, USA.
1982: Barak is central in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, as commander of the Lebanon Valley force.
1983 April: Barak becomes director of the military intelligence, Aman.
1991 April: Barak is appointed Chief of Staff in the Israeli Defence Forces.
1995 July: Appointed Minister of Interior to the government of Yitzhak Rabin.
1995 November: Appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.
1996 June: With change of prime minister in Israel, Barak resigns from his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
1997: Barak is elected leader of the Labour party.
1999 May 17: Barak is elected prime minister of Israel, beating his only contender Benjamin Netanyahu.
July 6: Barak is sworn in as the new prime minister of Israel.
August 1: Barak gives in to pressure from the Palestinian president, Yassir Arafat, and promises to withdraw Israeli troops from certain territories in the West Bank within a month, as described in the Wye Agreement.
2000 June: Barak presents a sketch to a final solution between Israel and Palestine, in which about 90% of the West Bank is to be left in the hands of an independent Palestine. This proposal receives much criticism from many in Israel for being too generous towards the Palestinians, but it is not accepted by Yassir Arafat.
October: With the rise in tensions and killings on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, Barak loses much of his support.
December 9: Barak declares in a TV speech that he will resign as prime minister of Israel. His resignation application will be delivered to the president of Israel on the 10th.
2001 February 6: Barak loses the prime minister elections to Ariel Sharon, and receives only 40% of the votes. He is first offered a position in Sharon's new government as defence minister, but refuses. He later resigns as leader of the Labour Party.

By Tore Kjeilen