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Ehud Barak

Born 1942 in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon.
Barak completed a first degree in Physics and Mathematics at the Hebrew University in Jersualem in 1968, and a second degree in Systems Analysis at Stanford University in California in 1987.

Military Career
Barak enlisted to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in 1959. He began his military services in the armored unit. During the Six Day War (1967), he fought as the commander of the reconnaissance staff. In May 1972, Barak commanded the operation to rescue the hostages of the Sabena aircraft hijacked by members of the Black September terrorist group. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, he commanded a unit of tanks on the southern front in Sinai.

In June 1976, Barak was one of the planners of the Entebbe rescue operation during which Air France passengers were hijacked to Entebbe, Uganda. Barak was later promoted to the rank of major-general and appointed head of the Planning Division of the General Staff. During the Operation for Peace in the Galilee, he served as deputy commander of the force that operated in the Lebanese Valley. Barak's appointment as head of the Intelligence Branch came in April 1983, and his appointment as head of the Central Command came in 1986. In 1987 he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff, and then in 1991 he became Chief of Staff of the IDF. During his military career, Barak earned the largest number of decorations in the history of the IDF.

As Chief of Staff, Barak was informed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin about the Oslo peace talks. Following the signing with the Palestinians of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993, Barak implemented the security arrangements of the agreement and began the redeployment of troops in Gaza and Jericho which were handed to the Palestinians. Prior to his January 1, 1995 retirement from the armed forces, Barak met twice with his Syrian counterpart during bilateral talks with Syria in Washington.

Political Career
In July 1995, Barak joined the government of Yitzhak Rabin as Minister of the Interior. When the government voted to approve the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Taba Agreement, Oslo B), Barak abstained because of technical reservations.

Following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995, Barak became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government under Shimon Peres.

In the elections for the 14th Knesset, Barak was elected Knesset member on the Labor Party list on which he was ranked third. When Shimon Peres lost the elections for prime minister, Barak announced that he would run for the position as head and Prime Ministerial candidate of the Labor Party. On June 4, 1997, Barak was elected from among four candidates by a 50.33% majority. Subsequently, Barak stated that he is not interested in joining the government under Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the elections for the Prime Minister and fifteenth Knesset on May 17, 1999, Barak, as head of the One Israel List, secured 56.08% of the votes and defeated Benjamin Netanyahu. On July 6th, Barak formed a coalition which included the One Israel, Shas, Meretz, Center, National Religious, and Yisrael Be'aliya parties.

Immediately upon taking his post as Prime Minister, Barak gave his word that within one year, he would withdraw the IDF from South Lebanon. On May 24, 2000, the IDF left South Lebanon.

Barak's attempts at achieving permanent-status agreements with Syria and the Palestinians reached a dead-end despite his willingness for far-reaching and controversial concessions. In the negotiations with the Syrians, Barak was prepared to withdraw from the Golan Heights to an international border, but not the one of June 4, 1967 when the Syrians were sitting on the shores of Lake Kinneret.

In the negotiations with the Palestinians, Barak agreed to recognize a Palestinian state and to discuss Jerusalem in the future with the possibility of dividing rule of the city. However, Barak was not willing to recognize Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount or the Palestinian refugee Right of Return to the State of Israel.

During his tenure as Prime Minister, much criticism was directed at Barak from within his party and on the political left for not doing enough to change the social and economic agendas of the state. The secular community also criticized Barak for not keeping to his stand against the exemption of Yeshiva students from military service.

Following the July 2000 Camp David talks between Barak and Arafat, initiated by US President Bill Clinton, Barak's coalition lost the Shas, National Religious, and Yisrael Be'aliya parties because of Barak's readiness for far-reaching concessions. Meretz had withdrawn from the coalition two weeks earlier because of irreconcilable differences with the Shas Party. The collapse of the Camp David talks, together with the prolongation of the Palestinian violence and the formation of a Knesset majority interested in ending the current government, led to Barak's announcement on December 5, 2000 that he supports the early disbanding of the Knesset. Five days later, Barak resigned as Prime Minister which forces a "special election" for prime minister only. That same day, he convened the Labor Party Center which reelected him to be the Labor Party's Prime Ministerial candidate.

Additional Biography

Ariel Sharon

Born 1928 in Moshav Kfar Malal.
Attended high school in Tel Aviv.
Sharon studied History and Oriental Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem during the years 1952-1953. From 1958-1962, he studied Law at Tel Aviv University.

Military Career
Sharon enlisted in the Haganah (the pre-state Jewish military force) in 1945. In 1947, he served as a supernumerary constable in the police force of the Jewish Settlement. During Israel's War of Independence, he fought as a platoon commander and was wounded in the unsuccessful battle over Latrun. In the beginning of 1949, Sharon was a company commander, and in 1951, he was appointed commanding intelligence officer in the Central Command. During his studies in 1952-1953, he was appointed commander of the special 101 commando unit set up to carry out retaliatory operations against attacks by Palestinian infiltrators.

In January 1954, his unit merged with a paratroop regiment of which Sharon became the commanding officer, and continued to carry out unconventional operations across enemy lines.

In 1956, Sharon was appointed commander of a paratroop brigade and fought in the Sinai Campaign. In 1957, he attended the Camberley Staff College in Great Britain. From 1958-1962, while studying Law, Sharon commanded an infantry unit and directed the Infantry College.

In 1964, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin appointed Sharon as the head of the Northern Command, and two years later, he became the head of the Training Division. In this capacity, he was promoted to Major General. In the Six-Day War, he served as an armored division commander, and was acclaimed for his tactical successes. Following the war, Sharon returned to his position in the Training Division and transferred the training bases to the West Bank.

In 1969, Sharon was appointed Commander of the Southern Command, and in this role, he fortified the Bar Lev Line and played and active part in the War of Attrition. After the cease-fire along the Suez Canal went into effect in August 1970 and throughout all 1971, Sharon concentrated on repressing Palestinian terrorism in the Gaza Strip.

Sharon retired from the military in June 1973 in order to run for Knesset as a member of the Liberal Party. During the short period until the Yom Kippur War, Sharon worked at establishing the Likud Party. During the Yom Kippur War, Sharon returned to active military service to command an armored division with which he crossed the Suez Canal.

After one year of political activity, Sharon resigned his Knesset seat and accepted an emergency appointment in the IDF.

Political Career
In December 1973, Sharon was elected to the eighth Knesset as a member of the Likud. In the course of the year 1974, he proposed that Israel negotiate with the PLO towards the establishment of a Palestinian state in Jordan.

From June 1975 to March 1976, Sharon served as special advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and began to plan his own return to the political arena. With the approach of the elections for the ninth Knesset (1977), he established his own political party by the name of Shlomzion. Shlomzion secured two Knesset seats, but shortly thereafter merged with the Herut Movement within the Likud.

In the government that was formed by Menachem Begin in June 1977, Sharon was appointed Minister of Agriculture and chairman of the Ministerial Committee for Settlement, in which capacity he advocated the establishment of a dense network of Jewish urban and rural settlements in the West Bank.

Following the elections for the tenth Knesset (1981), Sharon was appointed Minister of Defense. In April 1982, in accordance with the terms of the peace treaty with Egypt, Sharon carried out the last phase of the Israeli evacuation from the Northern Sinai. In 1982, the General Staff of the IDF completed a plan for a military operation in Lebanon which was implemented as the "Operation Peace for the Galilee." The main declared goals of this operation were to free Israel's northern settlements from terrorist attacks, to remove the PLO from Beirut, to bring about the establishment of a friendly government in Lebanon which would sign a peace treaty with Israel, and to force the Syrians out of Beirut.

In the National Unity government formed after the elections to the eleventh Knesset (1984), Sharon was appointed Minister of Industry and Trade. In this role, which he continued until June 1990, he developed his plan for dense Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

After the collapse of the National Unity government on March 15, 1990, Sharon was appointed Minister of Construction and Housing in the new narrow government formed by Yitzhak Shamir. Within this framework, he once again intensified Jewish settlement activities in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. He was also responsible for the purchase of tens of thousands of caravans and a vast construction effort in order to house the mass immigration that began to pour into Israel form the Soviet Union in 1989.

Toward the end of 1991, Sharon objected to Israel's participation in the Madrid Conference. When he ran for leadership of the Likud party in 1992, he came in third place after Yitzhak Shamir and David Levy with 22% support from the voters.

After Yitzhak Rabin's victory as Prime Minister in 1992, Sharon decided not to run for Likud leadership against Benjamin Netanyahu. When Netanyahu became Prime Minister in 1996, he appointed Sharon as Minster of National Infrastructures. When David Levy resigned as Foreign Minister in 1998, Sharon took over that position as well.

Following the 1999 elections and Netanyahu's resignation from the Likud leadership, Sharon ran for the position and won with a 53% majority.

Following the breakdown of the Camp David peace talks in July 2000, Sharon and Barak were in contact about the possible formation of a National Unity government. However, it never came to pass. On the 28th of September, during a well-covered visit to the Temple Mount, Sharon announced that every Jew has the right to visit the Temple Mount.

Despite Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to return to political life when elections looked like a real possibility, Sharon decided to defend his political position and to run against him for Likud leadership. However, the Knesset decided not to dissolve itself, leaving only the special elections for the Prime Minister. As a result, Netanyahu decided not to run, and Sharon remained the Likud's Prime Ministerial candidate.

Additional Biography

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