Grumpy Old Man: The pol on a swing

Ehud Barak comes and goes as he pleases, and thinks this shouldn’t bother us as we look desperately for a new leader.

By
August 25, 2016 16:45
Lawrence Rifkin

The writer at age 12, after his encounter with physics and a swing. (photo credit: LAWRENCE RIFKIN)

 
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This past Tuesday marked exactly half a century since a pivotal point in my life – the day I tried to loop around the upper bar of the swing set at a local playground.

A human being, unassisted by a propulsive device, can’t possibly develop the velocity and torque needed to do a full-tension, 360-degree loop on a swing. At age 12, even I knew this. So the idea was to get as high up as possible and then, at the apex, while holding on to the two chains supporting the swing, contort myself much the way a pole vaulter does, altering my trajectory and coming down on the other side.

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I’d pulled off goofier stunts involving bicycles, toboggans, Tarzan ropes and riding mowers, so you couldn’t have convinced me that it was impossible.

Yet it was, because once you reach the apex, there’s little, if any, kinetic energy left, and, physics being physics, contortions need a lot of this energy to alter a trajectory.

I could have come back down the way I went up, and that would have been that. But one of the chains came out of the S-hook on the bar as I neared the top, and I fell sideways to earth, utterly out of control, shattering my left leg so thoroughly that I was hospitalized for a week, and for the next three months I endured a heavy cast reaching to just below my hip.

The outcome, let’s just say, dissuaded me from ever doing it again. Which makes me wonder why anyone could look at Ehud Barak and say let’s try that again.

I MAKE no secret of the fact that I’m looking for a bit’honist – the Hebrew term for one with a top-notch senior military or security background – to lead us.

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We have so many serious issues to tame right here at home, but we all know that in this neighborhood, security is paramount, and by far. No one can tell me that withdrawing to the pre-1967 lines will change an entire region’s approach to Israel even in a hundred years, yet no one can tell me that the status quo is any better, safer or more sustainable.

Barak, despite his baby face and impish grin, is a bit’honist. And he’s got quite a bit of realist in him.

As Labor Party and opposition leader during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s disastrous first term, he promised an exit from our 18-year nightmare in Lebanon.

This helped him get elected, and he delivered – but with little thought about the long-term consequences.

He went on to take us to Camp David, where he smartly took the high road. But then there was the second intifada and the needless October 2000 Israeli-Arab rioting that laid bare our problems not only with the Palestinians beyond the Green Line, but with those living right here among us.

He called early elections – and lost. He stalked off in a huff to make a few million in the private sector – which is okay, really – and came back when he saw weakness in Amram Mitzna, who had replaced him as party leader. But he lost to Shimon Peres in internal balloting, and stalked off in a huff, again, to make a few more million.

Labor eventually was passed to the hands of Amir Peretz, who, as defense minister in a Kadima-led government, seemed to have no idea how to use a pair of binoculars, which should have tipped us off about the way the Second Lebanon War would go. This gave Barak new hope, which he successfully parlayed into a new term as party leader and defense minister.

He retained the defense portfolio when Kadima crumbled and the Likud, once again under Netanyahu, took over. This caused a split in Labor, with Barak taking the few MKs who still supported him into Independence, something that, with a bit of imagination, could be called a party. But Independence disappeared in the next elections, so once more, Barak stalked off in a huff to make even more millions.

Recently, though, having grown a beard that makes him look more like an adult, he spoke obliquely and mysteriously about Netanyahu having done something terrible to put Israel at great risk. But he told us he could say no more, owing to security. Lights! Teleprompter! Action! He made those remarks at a conference of Darkenu, a group that touts itself as a “grassroots movement of the Israeli moderate majority,” promoting a two-state solution, seeking to make Israel the “nation state of the Jewish people and a democratic country for all its citizens,” and working for “social justice and civil solidarity” and the “eradication of all forms of racism and discrimination.”

Wonderful! How can I join? And, oh yes: Darkenu spends a lot of time saying that Netanyahu must go. Terrific! Where’s the pen? But replacing our current prime minister, I fear, is all that interests Barak, who, like Netanyahu himself, is just one more egotistical man for whom leadership is not everything – it’s the only thing.

WE CERTAINLY need someone to replace Netanyahu, his rancid brand of statesmanship and management, and the neo-fascists and buffoons he and his retinue bring to the table. This person will need talent, cojones and vision.

Like Netanyahu, Barak has the talent. Unlike Netanyahu, he has the cojones. But his vision seems to go no farther than the view from his luxury Tel Aviv penthouse, much the way Netanyahu’s vision seems to involve little more than attaining yet another year at the top of The Jerusalem Post’s annual list of the most influential Jews.

This is not the sign of someone who’s serious about serving us. It’s Bibi II, and we don’t need any more of that.

Back and forth, Barak swings in and out of politics, returning only when it suits him. He reminds me of the playground stunt that left me with one leg shorter than the other and a gnawing physical pain to this day. I hate swings.

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