Barak set to speak this month

BY MIKE SHERWIN, OF THE JEWISH LIGHT STAFF

Israel’s former prime minister, Ehud Barak, will come to town to speak about international relations at Saint Louis University on Feb. 15.

Barak’s speech, “Blueprint for Global Relations: A Macro Analysis of How National Politics, International Events, Terror and the Economy All Influence National and International Relations,” will take place at 7 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of SLU’s Busch Student Center, located at 20 N. Grand Blvd.

A SLU student programming organization, the Great Issues Committee, organized Barak’s upcoming talk.

Natalie Long, a SLU junior studying political science, and chair of the Great Issues Committee, said Barak’s name was one of many international speakers that came up during planning discussions of the organization.

“He was just a logical choice,” Long said. “The Middle East is such a hotly contested focal point for global politics, and to be able to bring in someone who was right in the middle of it was a great opportunity. That’s in addition to the fact that he was the Prime Minister of Israel, a country with such a fascinating history.”

Long said that although Barak’s speech will not focus solely on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the committee recognized that the choice of Barak could spark some controversy.

“I think most of the great issues of our time are going to incite controversy, or even protests, and that’s nothing we should shy away from,” Long said.

Long said security will be well-prepared for any potential disruptions at the speech, she said.

Long said the room booked for the event holds 1,500 to 1,600 people, but she is encouraging people to arrive early to get through security.

Barak defeated Benjamin Netanyahu to become Israel’s 10th prime minister in May 1999. As prime minister, Barak pulled Israeli Defense Force troops out of South Lebanon in May 2000, ending 18 years of IDF presence there, and he offered unprecedented concessions during the peace negotiations that ultimately failed at Camp David in July 2000.

Barak weathered the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000, before he left office in March 2001, after he was defeated by Ariel Sharon.

As Prime Minister, Barak led Israel’s economy out of a recession into 5.9 percent annual economic growth.

Barak served in the IDF for 36 years, beginning in 1959, and rose to Lt. General, the highest rank in the Israeli military. He earned the “Distinguished Service Medal,” in addition to four other citations for courage and operational excellence.

Barak earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University in California.

Barak entered politics in 1995, serving as interior minister for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and as minister of foreign affairs under Shimon Peres.

In 1996, Barak was elected to the Knesset and in the same year he became the head of the Labor Party.

Barak has visited St. Louis at least twice for public appearances. In 1996 as foreign minister, Barak spoke to a meeting of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. More recently, he spoke in September 2005 at Powell Hall as part of Maryville University’s Distinguished Speakers Series.

Barak’s speech is free and open to the public, although SLU students, faculty and staff with ID will be admitted beginning at 5:30 p.m. Admission for the general public starts at 6 p.m.

Photography of any kind will not be allowed, and cameras will be prohibited at the event.

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