Former prime minister Ehud Barak’s truculent and self-serving brand of politics is the last thing that Israel needs today. No thank you.
Barak is promoting his political comeback with near-messianic zeal, preening self-confidence, sky-high arrogance and the most violent political language heard in this country in decades.
In dozens of speeches across the country and in aggressive social media posts, Barak has been savaging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and anybody to the right of him as “dark and dangerous ultra-nationalists who are undermining the foundations of Zionism and Israeli democracy.”
Barak talks madly about the “shattering of Israeli democracy” (nonsense, Israeli democracy is robust!), and the “darkest days Israel has known” (another absurd claim).
Worst of all is his frequent use of the “f” and “a” words – fascism and apartheid – to describe the policies of his conservative opponents.
In one speech I heard, Barak hurled the epithet “fascist” at Netanyahu three times and “apartheid” at right-wing West Bank policies another three times. He then accused all Israelis to his political Right of wearing Nazi-style “selection eyeglasses” (mishkefei selectzia shel hayamin) – which is a disgusting political slur whether used by an antisemitic non-Jew or a born-again wannabe Israeli leader.
Barak delivers all this dreadful demagoguery alongside incessant use of the epithet “messianic” in describing policies of the right-wing. This, of course, is supremely ironic, since the only messianism that exists in abundance in Ehud Barak’s presence is his own messianic self-assurance.
Barak’s wild exaggerations and exceedingly belligerent characterizations are shocking. His vehement denigration of others and unrestrained use of near antisemitic and pseudo-BDS language about Israel and Netanyahu is unacceptable.
In fact, Barak’s demonizing language is the type of speech that would undermine any democracy. In other words, Barak is guilty of the accusations he throws at anyone who dares to disagree with him. And this makes a mockery of his pompously named Israel “Democratic” Party.
I sense that Barak’s feral ambitions and obvious hatreds have propelled him into the deep end. In my mind, the violent discourse disqualifies Barak from leading this country again, and that’s before we get to discussion of his dismal political record.
AS FOR BARAK’S political record, well that includes his resounding defeats in the elections of 2001 and 2009 (leading Labor to a nadir); his dreadful term as prime minister (the shortest term of any Israeli prime minister, not surprisingly); his helter-skelter retreat from Lebanon (which led to the rise of Hezbollah); and his disastrous diplomatic policies (which led directly to the Second Intifada).
The last point is especially important. Barak betrayed the trust Israelis had given him by agreeing, at the July 2000 Camp David summit, to divide Jerusalem and give away the Temple Mount – a radical diplomatic departure from the platform on which he had campaigned and which he had reaffirmed publicly just two months earlier. (Again, so much for “democratic” behavior.)
This reckless gambit, for which Barak had no public mandate, terribly weakened Israel’s political hold on Jerusalem. It heedlessly broke an important and rightful Israeli diplomatic taboo about maintaining Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.
This transgression undermined a core Jewish claim to legitimacy in Zion, which at its source is rooted in the holiest place on earth to Jews – Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. It appreciably enfeebled Israel’s diplomatic fortitude. It drove Palestinian expectations sky high and became the baseline for international demands that the city be split into two capitals. It later gave cover to other politicians on the Left (like Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni) to go astray too.
It also promptly led to Yasser Arafat’s so-called Second Intifada, the most murderous spree of Palestinian terrorism in Israel’s history.
Arafat incorrectly assumed that all Israelis would be as supine as Barak; that several dozen bus-bombers would push Israelis over the edge and bring about capitulation in Jerusalem and across Judea and Samaria.
And sure enough, Barak almost gave away the store at the January 2001 Taba Summit, after his government had fallen and despite the raging intifada. For the first time, an Israeli prime minister imprudently accepted the 1967 lines (and 97% of Judea and Samaria) as the basis for a Palestinian state.
Fortunately, Barak was swiftly kicked out of office, and Israelis proved far more resilient and loyal to their principles than either Barak or Arafat imagined.
Barak has never expressed remorse for his flagrant offenses; for the potential plundering of Jerusalem. Thus, he cannot be trusted to handle Israeli defense and diplomacy for the future. He might again go to insane ends of surrender.
As for actual policy, well, Ehud Barak of 2019 has no concrete policy proposals to offer in relation to the Palestinians, the Iranians, or the Israeli economy for that matter. He has no solutions to Israel’s dilemmas and challenges, only loads of fire and brimstone to tender against Netanyahu. And the proposition that he, Saint Ehud, will be Israel’s splendid seraphic savior. I’m not buying.
The writer is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, jiss.org.il. His personal site is davidmweinberg.com.
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