Barak joined the Israel Defense Forces in 1959 and served for 35 years, rising to the rank of Lt. General, the highest in the Israeli military. Barak was awarded the "Distinguished Service Medal" and four other citations for courage and operational excellence. Meanwhile, Barak has earned degrees from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Stanford University.
In politics, he served as Minister of the Interior (1995) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-1996). He was elected to the Knesset in 1996, where he served as a Member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. In 1996 Barak became the leader of the Labor Party.