Ehud Barak addresses the Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016.
(photo credit: ADI COHEN ZEDEK)
A political comeback is not in the works for former prime minister Ehud Barak, not even as a “professional appointment” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his foreign minister, Barak told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.
Barak made waves on Thursday night when he called for the public to unite to defeat Netanyahu in a fiery address to the Herzliya Conference.
The Likud responded that Barak was trying to return to politics.
The Makor Rishon newspaper quoted Labor Party sources on Friday saying that Netanyahu had offered the Foreign Affairs portfolio to Barak on May 18 after the prime minister gave the Defense portfolio to Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman. The report said the Barak appointment was intended to balance out Liberman and make Netanyahu’s cabinet more palatable to the international community.
“I was never approached about the portfolio and I would not accept it if offered,” Barak said.
Barak compared himself to American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, who rejected overtures to run for US president on the Republican ticket in 1884, saying, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”
When asked why he would not want to enter the cabinet and make changes, Barak said: “I see what has happened to the government over the past year. It is in steep decline, spiraling down into the situation that I warned of a year ago in my speech to the same conference.”
Senior Likud officials close to Netanyahu have said that the prime minister is interested in appointing a moderate foreign minister as a professional appointment. But Netanyahu’s spokesman and Likud ministers Yariv Levin and Ze’ev Elkin all denied on Saturday night that Barak had been offered the job.
“There has not been such an offer from us,” a source close to Netanyahu said. “Nothing can be further from the truth.”
When asked why he was not returning to politics, Barak referred to an interview he gave Channel 2 on Friday, in which he recalled that he beat Netanyahu in the 1999 election but said he had no plans to challenge him again.
“Running for prime minister and remaining silent are not the only two options,” Barak said. “I intend to take action. I will not run for prime minister or act within a political framework, but I will take action and aid efforts to change the situation.”
Barak denied a report that he gave presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as 30 percent chance of winning the American election. He said that in his speech at New York’s Central Synagogue, where the quote came from, he was talking about mathematical probability and the quote was taken out of context.
In the Channel 2 interview, Barak said Netanyahu “panicked” because he knows that his leading of the government is soon coming to an end.
“I’ve known Netanyahu since he was 20 years old,” he said. “I can see the edges of panic. Netanyahu understands clearly that his days as prime minister are numbered, even if it takes months or years, they are numbered. He recognizes that the countdown to the end of his reign has begun, whether it now takes a year or a year and a half.”
Barak continued by lamenting the government’s sharp drift to the extreme Right of the political spectrum under the leadership of Netanyahu.
“This government is made up only of right-wing parties; there is no balancing element. It is operating in devious ways, ways that endanger the State of Israel,” Barak said. “[Netanyahu] needs to be replaced and thanked for everything he has done for the state... but it’s time to go. Netanyahu is not a magician, he’s gone off the rails,” Barak added.Daniel Roth contributed to this report.