Barak press conference 311.
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak took pains on
Monday to explain how Barak’s break-off from Labor, the resignation of three
ministers and the departure of eight MKs from the coalition ironically
strengthened both the coalition and the peace process.
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lettersNetanyahu: This gov't will be around for years to
remaining politicians in Labor tried to explain how the split in their party
could actually strengthen it in the long run.
All three items were a
tough sell on what appeared to be a tough day for the coalition, the peace
process and – of course – Labor.
But they just might have a
Let’s start with the coalition.
Netanyahu has made clear
for a long time that it was very important for him to keep Barak in his
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Netanyahu has a tremendous amount of respect for Barak, who
was his commander in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. He wants
Barak to be in charge when key defense decisions are made, especially about
Iran, which is by far the most important issue for Netanyahu.
provides an important service to Netanyahu. He gives him the endorsement of a
former prime minister with proven peace credentials, who tells the world that
Netanyahu can deliver a diplomatic agreement.
It is important for
Netanyahu to be seen by the world as the leader of not just the Likud or the
Right, but a consensus of Israelis from moderate Left to moderate Right. Keeping
Barak and four other former Labor MKs in his coalition enables him to continue
to portray himself as such.
The coalition lost the votes of eight rebels
and wavering ministers who could never really be depended on anyway.
received the guaranteed votes of the five most loyal Labor MKs, who would have
had to leave the coalition if a Labor convention had been held last month and
passed a proposal to quit.
These five MKs, who can no longer justify
leaving the coalition in the future, could help Netanyahu keep his government
together until 2013.
How can the departure of ministers pushing for peace
ironically help achieve it? First of all, there is no longer the artificial
deadline of reaching a diplomatic breakthrough with the Palestinians by the date
of the Labor convention. Now new diplomatic ideas can be pursued quietly without
fear that they will have to be revealed to the public in order to justify
staying in the coalition to antsy Labor ministers.
The strengthening of
the coalition sends a message to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
and US President Barack Obama that they cannot just wait for Netanyahu’s
government to fall. They are stuck with him for the foreseeable future, so they
will have to deal with him now.
Netanyahu will now want to prove to Barak
that he made the right decision to stay. And that means that serious diplomatic
concessions are likely on the way.
The toughest sell is how this could
The split in the party could be a knockout punch that could
prevent Labor from recovering in time for the next election.
But on the
other hand, if the split was inevitable, it was much better for the party that
it happened now and not in the months ahead of an election. Now Labor has time
to elect a new leader and rebuild itself in his or her image in the
Barak was more self-destructive than any other force in
Labor. His departure could end up saving the party and giving it new life.
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