Barak Takes Charge in Israel Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

After assuming leadership of the Labor Party and defeating Benjamin Netanyahu in the polls, Ehud Barak took charge as Israel’s tenth prime minister. Barak’s administration witnessed landmark events in the Israel-Palestine conflict, troop withdrawal from Lebanon, pursuit of peace with Syria, and a revival of the Oslo Accords. The biggest political events, however, were the failure of the Camp David summit in 2000 and subsequently the second Palestinian intifada.

Summary of Event

The fragile peace process of Israel and Palestine has witnessed numerous leaders on both sides attempting to broker an amicable political scenario. Ehud Barak entered politics in one of its most decisive periods in history. Following the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and failure of the vital Oslo Accords Oslo Accords (1993) in 1993, Barak steered the regional peace process into the twenty-first century, with his fair share of both success and tribulations. His military-style diplomacy garnered peace through troop withdrawals in Lebanon on one hand but failure of the 2000 triparty Camp David summit on the other. Camp David summit (2000) Israel;government Israeli-Palestinian conflict[Israeli Palestinian conflict] Palestinian-Israeli conflict[Palestinian Israeli conflict] Elections;Israel [kw]Barak Takes Charge in Israel (May 17, 1999) [kw]Israel, Barak Takes Charge in (May 17, 1999) Israel;government Israeli-Palestinian conflict[Israeli Palestinian conflict] Palestinian-Israeli conflict[Palestinian Israeli conflict] Elections;Israel [g]Middle East;May 17, 1999: Barak Takes Charge in Israel[10350] [g]Israel;May 17, 1999: Barak Takes Charge in Israel[10350] [c]Government and politics;May 17, 1999: Barak Takes Charge in Israel[10350] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;May 17, 1999: Barak Takes Charge in Israel[10350] Barak, Ehud Arafat, Yasir Rabin, Yitzhak Sharon, Ariel

Born on a kibbutz in 1942, Barak succeeded Benjamin Netanyahu in 1999 as Israel’s tenth prime minister. Barak’s rise to power was similar to that of most of his predecessors—from a military soldier to the nation’s leader. Barak was no ordinary soldier, however; he was the most decorated Israeli soldier in the nation’s history. When only seventeen years of age, Barak enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); he served for the next thirty-five years and retired as rav auf, the highest military rank in the IDF. Barak assumed the top office when the Middle East’s fragile peace process was reaching a new low. The events leading up to Barak’s national leadership were marked by political tensions between Israel and Palestine much worse than in 1948, following the Israeli War of Independence. Over the years, heightened territorial disputes between Israel and Palestine, rather than the broader Middle Eastern regional crisis, took center stage. For instance, while the 1973 Yom Kippur War involved Egypt, Israel, and Syria, the 1980’s were dominated by numerous political confrontations between Israel and Palestine only.

In the 1990’s, some of the most important peace agreements and political standoffs in the five decades of the Israel-Palestine dispute occurred. The 1991 Madrid Conference, for instance, brought Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Palestine together for the first time in an attempt to initiate dialogue among the four countries and resolve nonpolitical issues such as concerns over natural resources, water, and the environment. The positive direction of this peace process, initiated by U.S. president Bill Clinton, Clinton, Bill [p]Clinton, Bill;Oslo Accords culminated with the famed 1993 Oslo Accords summit symbolized by the famous handshake between Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasir Arafat and Rabin. The accords, which aimed to resolve outstanding territorial disputes between the two sides, ultimately failed because of the breakdown of the Camp David summit in 2000. Following Rabin’s assassination in 1995, Israel was in search of a leader who could fill the late prime minister’s shoes.

Netanyahu, the successor to Rabin, was unable to follow in the footsteps of the slain prime minister. The impasse created by the 1998 Wye River Accords Wye River Accords (1998) and Netanyahu’s own unstable government created a perfect platform for Barak’s entry in 1999. In the summer of 1999, Barak won the elections by instilling confidence in all sectors of the society, including Israeli Russians and Arabs. In sweeping reforms, Barak attempted to bridge the Arab-Jewish gap by nominating two Arabs for his cabinet. On December 13 of the same year, Barak’s administration obtained approval from the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to establish peace talks with Syria. This historic step included negotiations regarding the demilitarization of the disputed Golan Heights region in northeastern Israel.

Barak, inspired heavily by his mentor Rabin, focused his administration’s agenda on the Israel-Palestine conflict. On July 11, 2000, at President Clinton’s invitation, Barak and Arafat convened at the presidential retreat, Camp David, Maryland, for a summit. The topics of discussion at the summit included, for the first time, landmark proposals initiated by the Israeli government. These proposals included significant troop withdrawal from the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and recognition of the state of Palestine. However, on July 25, 2000, the summit ended on an indecisive note.

Arafat was later blamed for the failure of the summit based on his displeasure regarding the territorial ownership of east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The mount is a holy site for both Jews, because of the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall), and Muslims, because of Al-Aqsa Mosque. On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon took a tour of the mosque with a large contingent of the ruling Likud Party in an attempt to claim the Jewish right to east Jerusalem. The following day, the second Palestine uprising began with armed violence between the Israeli army and Palestinians. It continued until 2005. Because of increasing violence and his failure to broker peace, Barak resigned the office of prime minister on December 9, 2000. Two months later, in the 2001 elections, he was defeated by Sharon, who became the eleventh prime minister of Israel.


Following Barak’s resignation, several attempts were made to stamp out the second intifada by subsequent prime ministers. The failure of the Camp David summit not only had a negative effect on the peace process but also aggravated tension on a global scale. As a result, the Middle East peace process in the new century, including the 2001 Taba conference, the Francophone Summit in Beirut in 2002, and the “road map for peace” conferences, involved global players such as the European Union and the United Nations. The war against terrorism, commenced following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, and the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict intensified negative sentiments toward the West among Muslims in the Middle East and deepened the rift with neighboring Jews. The future of the Israel-Palestine conflict called for a mutually agreeable peace between the two sides based on ideological compromise and not merely a territorial agreement. Israel;government Israeli-Palestinian conflict[Israeli Palestinian conflict] Palestinian-Israeli conflict[Palestinian Israeli conflict] Elections;Israel

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Baroud, Ramzy. The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Pluto Press, 2006. Provides a descriptive account of the second intifada. Includes maps and statistics on casualties.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Beinin, Joel, and Rebecca L. Stein, eds. The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2006. Illustrates political changes from the 1993 Oslo Accords to the second intifada to the death of Arafat. Includes maps, poetry, and graphic art.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Freedman, Robert O., ed. Israel’s First Fifty Years. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000. Collection of scholarly essays narrates Israel’s political history. Begins with Israel’s relationship with Soviet Union in 1950’s and ends with the 1999 victory of Barak.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gavron, Daniel. The Other Side of Despair: Jews and Arabs in the Promised Land. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. Compilation of personal stories by Israelis and Palestinians. Brings out the human dimensions of the conflict.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Helmick, Raymond G. Negotiating Outside the Law: Why Camp David Failed. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Pluto Press, 2004. Reviews events leading up to the failure of the summit and the political repercussions that followed.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001. A historiography of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reexamined with Vladamir Jabotinsky’s “iron wall” theory.

Yom Kippur War

Sadat Becomes the First Arab Leader to Visit Israel

Palestinians Are Massacred in West Beirut

Palestinian Intifada Begins

Rabin Is Assassinated

Categories: History Content