Analysis: Passing the buck(s)

Barak intended to express his disgust with Olmert, but he ended up looking just as bad.

barak olmert 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
barak olmert 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Labor chairman Ehud Barak intended to use his press conference Wednesday to express his disgust with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the vast sums of money he received from American financier Morris Talansky for his private use. But he ended up looking just as bad as Olmert. He gave the prime minister's advisers an excuse to remind people that Barak himself raised vast sums for his election campaign for the premiership from fictitious nonprofit organizations and that he is just as fond of flying first class. Coming from a Labor leader like Amir Peretz, who lives in Sderot and fights for the rights of poor workers, Barak's argument would look sincere. Coming from Barak, it is hard to imagine him turning down an envelope full of cash. Barak decided to call the press conference after he met with key lawyers at a social event over the weekend and realized that Olmert would not be able to survive the Talansky affair. The Labor chairman knew that he had to prove himself by taking action - that he had to show his party's potential voters that he is a leader and not someone led by others. But Barak did not want to initiate an election just yet. He has fallen in the polls consistently since his election as party head a year ago. And he has yet to find a solution to the rockets falling on southern Israel or to bring back the kidnapped soldiers. Calling upon Kadima to replace Olmert could result in a government led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in which the more experienced Barak would play a key role behind the scenes. Such a government would allow Barak to initiate a war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip that could not only improve the security of the country but also reinforce his security credentials and his political prowess. The disadvantage of such a government is that it would give Livni a chance to prove herself as prime minister, as Olmert did after prime minister Ariel Sharon's strokes. And Barak already gave Livni a chance to prove her leadership when he said that Kadima should remove Olmert. The Kadima MKs responded by saying that it was the responsibility of the party's ministers to take action. The junior ministers told reporters that they were waiting to see what the candidates to succeed Olmert intended to do. The candidates trailing Livni in the polls decided that the front-runner had to take action before them. And sources close to Livni said she was waiting for Olmert, whose associates said would do nothing. The end result was that Barak and the other politicians, instead of distancing themselves from the Talansky affair, ended up copying him. He passed the bucks. And they passed the buck.