WASHINGTON - Outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak will receive the highest award he could be given by a US secretary of defense when he visits the Pentagon on Thursday, three days after announcing his exit from political life next year.
The 70-year-old Barak, a leading strategist in confronting Iran over its nuclear program who has also served as prime minister and IDF chief of staff, has been a regular visitor to the Pentagon in recent years as tensions with Tehran simmer.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has known the Israeli leader since US President Bill Clinton's administration, when Panetta was chief of staff and when Barak served in roles including foreign minister. Barak and Panetta speak regularly, with three conversations alone during the crisis in Gaza this month.
"He's been an important partner of the US for a long time," one US defense official told Reuters, adding he will receive the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.