Ex-commando toughed out his early poll errors

THE ONE fact about Ehud Barak that is likely to win him most votes in today's election is that he is not Benjamin Netanyahu. It may be enough to make him prime minister.

Only two months ago, many were wondering if the 57-year-old former Israeli chief of staff and leader of the Labour party stood a chance. He showed political inexperience, and Israeli politics are full of minefields. His efforts to woo the Russian, Sephardi and ultra-orthodox voters seemed inept and were unsuccessful.

But at the last moment everything has come together. Mr Barak has shown that he has strong nerves and the capacity to plan ahead.

If elections go to the candidate who makes the least mistakes, then he will beat Mr Netanyahu hands down.

Mr Barak is not a well known character. Born in 1942 in a kibbutz south of Haifa, he spent 35 years in the Israeli army. In the last weeks his television advertising has relentlessly reminded viewers of his deeds of derring-do, such as leading seaborne commandos to kill three PLO leaders in Beirut in 1973. A general at 37, he became the Israeli chief of staff before entering politics in 1995 under the wing of the then Labour prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

But his military career has not always attracted good reviews. Soldiers often found him too much of a politician and politicians too much of a soldier. He was damaged by the accusation that he abandoned wounded soldiers during a training accident in 1992.

He is a shy man. He played the piano from an early age, has an interest in clocks and is well read. He avoided Israeli staff college to get a degree at Stanford University in California. He has a pinched half-smile which seems to say that he knows what a person is going to say before they say it.

As a soldier and politician Mr Barak has always been intensely competitive. In 1995 he was being groomed by Mr Rabin for ultimate leadership of the Labour party.

It seemed a long term prospect, but within a few months the prime minister was assassinated. Mr Barak became Foreign Minister.

The following year the new prime minister, Shimon Peres, lost a close- run election. Mr Barak took over the party leadership in 1997.

The omens were not good: Mr Netanyahu seemed to shrug off repeated scandals. But Mr Barak has eliminated his own weaknesses, looking to Israeli voters like an increasingly convincing alternative to their current prime minister.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future