Analysis: Defense minister's photo phobia

Barak took the easy way out, avoiding a situation where political reporters could ask tough questions.

Barak 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barak 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Ever since Defense Minister Ehud Barak's ill-fated press conference in May at Kibbutz Sdot Yam, political correspondents have been waiting for the moment that finally came on Sunday morning. They followed Barak to far-flung localities in the North and South, hoping to witness him admit that everything he said at Sdot Yam was a ploy to get elected Labor leader and that he never really intended to quit the government prematurely. The nights before and after the final Winograd Report's release last Wednesday, the phone lines to everyone considered a "source close to Barak" were busy as political reporters tried to obtain any morsel of information they could about what none of them doubted for a minute that Barak would eventually do. At first, Barak's associates guaranteed that there would be a press conference. Then they suggested he would make the announcement at Labor's Knesset faction meeting or somewhere else where political reporters could ask tough questions, or at least attend. But Barak took the easy way out on Sunday. He delivered his message via the small cadre of diplomatic reporters who wait outside the weekly cabinet meeting to broadcast Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's photo-opportunity. People present said the diplomatic reporters, who are used to dealing with worldly issues like the peace process, at first thought Barak was making small talk. It took them a while to realize he was making big news. Barak's spokespeople were asked afterward whether he was afraid of confronting the political press that had pressured him into making the statements he made at Sdot Yam. Does he suffer from any of the syndromes that have recently plagued politicians such as laliophobia (fear of speaking), decidophobia (fear of making decisions) or photoaugliaphobia (fear of glaring lights). "We wanted him to say it at the Knesset on Monday, but there was already too much speculation and too many questions," one Barak associate said. "The decision was already made, so he said it and got it out of the way." Another source close to Barak said he wanted to minimize the effect of his statement and not raise expectations by calling a press conference to say something that everyone already knew. "He didn't want to over-blow the drama," the source said. "He didn't want an anti-climax." Yet another Barak associate said the nonchalant look Barak had in his eye when he approached the reporters outside the cabinet meeting was all part of the plan. "It was important for the people at home to see that what he said came not only from his head, but also from his gut," he said. "He wanted to make sure it looked real. He didn't want it to sound like he was twisting words to say too much at the same time to the point that no one understood. That's what he did at Sdot Yam. This was the antidote for that."