Ehud Barak, now Israel’s defense minister and a past prime minister (1999-2001), is the most decorated soldier ever to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. He was the youngest soldier to receive the rank of general.
When he became prime minister, he decided to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to meet with Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat to sign a “final status” agreement. Mr. Barak said he would give the Palestinians all of the Gaza Strip and more than 90 percent of the West Bank and even discuss splitting Jerusalem. However, in a last-minute move, Arafat decided to balk and not counter-offer. Shortly after, the second intifada (uprising) began, leading most Israelis to lose faith in the peace process. In early 2001, Mr. Barak was crushed in a national election by Likud’s Ariel Sharon.
Mr. Barak also is remembered for the hasty Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. Many believe this set the arena for what became the second Lebanon War in 2006.
Mr. Barak stayed quiet for a few years, but again became head of the Labor Party in 2007. He now says he will run for prime minister in the next election, which will take place by March 2010.