Analysis: Good for Barak, bad for Barack

Neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nor Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz belong on the list of winners and losers.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 9, 2012 01:46
3 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz

Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Two officers in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance Unit) engaged in secret negotiations for a week and shocked their friends when they emerged with an agreement.

The victor in the deal was their former commander, Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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Neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nor Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz belong on the list of winners and losers in the surprise coalition deal they signed in the wee hours of Monday night.

Netanyahu does not belong on the list because he was a strong prime minister before the deal, he is a strong prime minister after the deal and he would have remained a strong prime minister had there been an early election – which polls say he would have won by a landslide.

Mofaz does not belong there either – he would have been trounced in the election had it taken place. The credibility he lost in zigzagging from Netanyahu critic to partner will be hard to restore before the next election, no matter when it takes place.

The winners list must start with Barak, who was walking, talking political carrion with an election on the horizon that would have left him out of the Knesset. Now he is set to remain defense minister until after an election scheduled for October 22, 2013.

That means that despite his lack of public support, Barak will be there when the biggest possible decisions are made on war and peace.

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The second big winner is Natan Eshel, Netanyahu’s disgraced former bureau chief, who was forced out amid harassment allegations, yet came out of the woodwork to broker his former boss a sweetheart deal.

Kadima MKs who had no chance of getting reelected are also big winners. The polls predicted that 28 MKs plus former IDF chief of staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz would have to run for just 10 seats.

Now the Kadima MKs have been given new life.

The two other winners are less known, but they all have been given more of a chance of being in the next Knesset.

MK Haim Amsalem broke off from Shas and formed a party called Am Shalem that now has time to build itself up.

MK Yuval Zellner (Kadima) was sworn into the Knesset Monday for what appeared to be only one full day of work.

Now he will have the opportunity to be an MK for a year-and- a-half.

Ironically, the losers are also Kadima MKs, specifically the ones who detest Netanyahu and will now have to defend him from inside his coalition.

Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich can also be considered a loser in the deal. She gained the plum title of opposition leader, but with polls predicting that Labor would become the second-largest party, she could have been a senior minister had the election taken place now.

Yacimovich could lose her luster over the next year-and-a-half, but probably not as much as new Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid. Just as he was seen as entering politics prematurely, he was forced into forming the party and revealing its name unnecessarily early.

While Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was declared a loser by television commentators for losing his role as a kingmaker for the current coalition, he could emerge the ultimate winner if Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein clears him on corruption charges ahead of the next election.

So who is the ultimate loser in the deal whose winner was Barak? The answer is Barack.

Six months ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy complained about having to deal with Netanyahu. Now Sarkozy is free of that burden, following an election that left him unemployed. US President Barack Obama replied in that conversation overheard via an inadvertently open microphone: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.”

If Obama had any hope that he would be emancipated from Netanyahu due to an Israeli election surprise, that hope is now gone. There is only one way for him to avoid dealing with Netanyahu beyond the next several months: Losing in November.

There is no loophole in American politics that could prevent that race from taking place.

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