Who’s behind the mysterious billboards calling for a Barak comeback?

“Barak, you must run! Netanyahu is ruining the country,” read road-side signs.

Billboard in Tel Aviv calling on Ehud Barak to make a political comeback, September 6, 2016 (photo credit: OFEK SADEH)
Billboard in Tel Aviv calling on Ehud Barak to make a political comeback, September 6, 2016
(photo credit: OFEK SADEH)
Billboards popped up in Tel Aviv on Tuesday urging former prime minister Ehud Barak to make a political comeback and save the country from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The signs, which were spotted during morning commutes on busy roads in Tel Aviv and the Ramat Gan- Bnei Brak area, read: “Barak, you must run! Netanyahu is ruining the country.” The message is not attributed to anyone.
Zahav, the company that operates the billboards on which the slogans were posted, would not divulge who paid for them, citing customer confidentiality.
Barak made himself unreachable, turning off his phone. On Tuesday afternoon, the Whatsapp messaging app said he had last looked at his phone at 6:36 a.m.
However, a spokesman for Barak released a statement in which the former prime minister said: “I haven’t the foggiest idea who is behind the billboards calling for me to run again. There is no change in my known stance that I don’t plan to return to politics.”
A former aide to Barak expressed certainty that the opposite is true.
“I’m sure it’s him,” she said.
“It’s only a matter of time before he organizes a rally under his house with people calling ‘Ehud, save us.’” The aide professed to want Barak to return to politics, calling him “our hope,” but was uncertain that his tactics would work because “people dislike him so much.”
Darkenu, the anti-Netanyahu organization to which Barak gave a speech last month – sparking the latest round of rumors that he would make his third attempt at a political comeback – distanced itself from the billboards, with spokesman Eyal Basson saying he saw them on the roads like everyone else.
Three weeks ago, Barak blasted the prime minister for his handling of the new defense aid package from the US, saying it is not as large as Israel wanted because of Netanyahu’s poor relationship with US President Barack Obama, and that the aid will be conditional on not asking Congress for additional funds. Barak also criticized Netanyahu for not leveraging the world powers’ deal with Iran to get better aid terms from the US.
“The countdown to the end of Netanyahu’s tenure has begun, and I think he understands that,” Barak told the crowd, adding that the prime minister’s continued tenure is the “sparks of fascism.”
Barak accused Netanyahu of poor judgments that “disturbingly expose Israel to a central security threat.”
A week later, Netanyahu said in a briefing to the haredi press that he has no idea to what Barak is referring, nor do his security advisers, and that Barak is just making noise to ready his comeback.
Netanyahu reportedly called Barak “the worst prime minister in the history of the state…He was barely in office a year and a half before he was thrown out.”
Barak shares the honor of being the most decorated soldier in the history of the IDF, and rose to the rank of chief of staff in 1991. His political rise was similarly meteoric, but shorter-lived. Thenprime minister Yitzhak Rabin appointed Barak as interior minister in 1995, and he became prime minister in a direct election in 1999, beating Netanyahu, who served under him in the elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit. By 2001, Barak called an election and was defeated by Ariel Sharon.
The former prime minister attempted to return to politics in 2005 by running for Labor leader, but dropped out because of weak polling numbers. Barak did make a successful comeback in 2007, taking over the helm of Labor, and became defense minister under then-prime minister Ehud Olmert. He maintained his position after the 2009 election, in which Netanyahu returned as premier.
In 2011, with Labor MKs increasingly frustrated with the faction’s presence in the coalition, Barak formed his own party, “Independence.”
However, Barak and Independence did not run in the following election in 2013, because of polls showing they would not get any seats.
Since then, there have been periodic rumors that Barak is considering another political run.