As a member of Israel's most elite commando force, Ehud Barak crossed borders in disguise and rescued hostages from hijacked airplanes. As a rising officer, he commanded a tank battalion in the fiercest battles of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He retired from the military after 36 years as Chief of Staff, commander of the armed forces, and Israel's most decorated soldier. On leaving the military, he answered the call of his friend and mentor, Yitzhak Rabin, to enter politics and join Rabin's cabinet. After Rabin's death, Ehud Barak became leader of Israel's Labor Party, and only four years after entering political life, won election as Prime Minister of Israel. As Prime Minister, he brought Israel closer than ever before to a final peace agreement with the Palestinians. Although he was out of office at the time of this discussion in 2003, he later served as the leader of Israel's Labor Party. At present, he serves as Minister of Defense in a multi-party coalition government, working to obtain a lasting peace while preserving his nation's security.
George Mitchell did not have an easy start in life. His parents had no education. His father was a janitor, his mother worked nights in a textile mill. Mitchell worked from an early age to put himself through college, and then through law school. At one time he dreamed of becoming mayor of his home town, but his career took him far beyond the city hall of Waterville, Maine. When George Mitchell stepped onto the international stage, he had already represented Maine in the United States Senate for 14 years, the last six as Majority Leader. In those years he enjoyed almost universal respect in Washington. It was said, "there is not a man, woman or child in the capital who does not trust George Mitchell." At the request of the British and Irish Governments, George Mitchell served as Chairman of the International Commission on Disarmament in Northern Ireland, and as Chairman of the subsequent peace negotiations. Under his leadership the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom agreed to an historic accord, ending decades of conflict. The agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by the voters of Ireland, North and South. For his service in the cause of peace, George Mitchell has received numerous awards and honors, including the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the U.S. Government can bestow. Retired from public life at the time of this discussion in 2003, he later served as President Barack Obama's Special Envoy to the Middle East.