Labor chairman Ehud Barak's associates vigorously denied that there was any connection between Thursday's Labor primary and his insistence to evacuate the disputed Hebron house the very same day. They said the decision was made for professional and strategic reasons alone, without any connection to politics. It may not be popular to give Barak the benefit of the doubt, but in this case it actually seems warranted. Barak was not running in Labor's primary, and apparently he deemed the Hebron issue a serious enough problem that he delayed his trip to Washington to meet with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. If the decision was indeed made for entirely professional reasons and the evacuation was successful, perhaps Barak should realize that there is a connection between the two. When he behaves professionally as defense minister, he can succeed. When he considers politics, he is bound to fail. Had he realized this earlier, Labor might not be in the tailspin it is today. When Barak returned to politics with a fax sent to Labor headquarters, he said he was coming back because he wanted to improve the country's security after the Second Lebanon War. He privately assured Labor officials that he would serve as a full-time defense minister and leave the politics to someone else. The more Barak broke that promise, the more Labor's support fell. Thursday's Labor primary is an opportunity to turn around Labor's political fortunes. Voting with paper slips instead of a a computer screen reminded Labor members of the party's good old days when it ran the country. Whoever was elected Labor's no. 2 man could end up being its leader if Barak resigns following failure in the February 10 general election. But if Barak embraces his second-in-command, lets him handle politics and sticks to security for a few months, maybe Labor's fortune will rise enough for Barak to survive politically. Labor members were greeted at polling stations by posters with the slogan "Barak: Not in style, but he gets the job done." Barak has two months to prove that as happened in Hebron, he can practice what his posters preach.