Another Tack: That bad penny

You've got to be acutely frantic if Ehud Barak is your idea of a lifesaver.

Well, like a bad penny you've turned up in the change… I think you know I'm still sore, but I'm on the mend,\ Times sure have changed, it won't happen again. The above lyrics by late Irish blues-guitarist and singer-songwriter Rory Gallagher keep reverberating unrelentingly in my mind's ear. They were released from the recesses of my subconscious by political pundits who insistently report that Ehud Olmert is busy concocting a new sensational scheme to save his political skin - appointing Ehud Barak his defense minister. Like the proverbial bad penny, Barak just won't go away. It's as if he and those who cynically boost him (when expediency so decrees) just don't get that some us - pawns of their political machinations - are still sore at what Barak wrought, that we try our best to mend the damage he inflicted, and that we'd like to suppose that times have changed, that there can be no sequel to the unbelievable Barak flop. Nonetheless, perhaps Olmert is well on his way to prove to all and sundry that whatever Barak could do abysmally he can mess up far worse. Designating the man who dealt the then-most catastrophic blow to Israel's national deterrent once more caretaker of that deterrent would indeed put Olmert way ahead in the race for most preposterous premier. But hey - we comfort our anxious psyches - odds must certainly be that Barak won't be appointed. This surely is nothing but a desperate trial balloon on Olmert's part. You've got to be acutely frantic if Barak is your idea of a lifesaver. It's one super-flunky seeking the help of the previous champion-flunky. Hence odds are that nothing will come of this. Right? Yeah - but this is Israel, where nothing irrational should be dismissed out of hand. The very fact that Barak's name could at all be floated should send chills down our spines. The very fact that spin docs and political patent-medicine purveyors could assume that the public would gleefully welcome and nostalgically rally round the very Barak who superciliously ushered in the era of unilateral retreats betokens disrespect for the ordinary Israeli's intelligence. Yet maybe that low regard for our deductive faculties is fully deserved. We let ourselves be bamboozled with every anti-democratic trick in the book into disengagement, and were then told that disengagement constitutes no less than democracy's litmus paper, that dissenters are democracy's demonically dangerous enemies. Dutifully we obeyed the "rule of law," despite all the abuses perpetrated in legality's hallowed name. ANY NATION that can fall for such perversions may be assumed liable to fall for anything - even for Barak's return. It can be presumed capable of forgetting that Barak was an unprincipled, devious and fatuous premier. Nerve-racking and erratic, he shot from the hip and haughtily put down his political nearest and dearest. During his truncated tenure he always knew best, endlessly looked for political loopholes, played fast and loose with anything from ethics to national legacy (i.e. the state comptroller's heaviest-ever fine for Barak's unprecedented complex network of bogus NGOs to foot his campaign bills and Barak's readiness to cede the Temple Mount to Arafat). Given to grandstanding and self-aggrandizement, Barak declared a social revolution and dispatched the needy to their neighbors' fridges. He apologized to Sephardi Israelis for sins he arrogantly ascribed to deceased Laborites. He expanded the cabinet in cheeky contravention of Basic Law stipulations, and refused to cooperate with the police probe of his NGO scam. Worst of all, Barak promoted the concept that the best thing to do when fighting terror is to flee and forfeit strategic assets. He foolhardily gave Nasrallah his first "victory" (before Olmert offered him the second). Barak made Hizbullah an object of avid Palestinian emulation. This isn't conjecture. The Palestinian press is fixated - in great length and detail - on Hizbullah strategies, tactics and even PR triumphs. This has been the Palestinian preoccupation since Barak's May 2000 midnight flight from Lebanon. That flight ignited the intifada of October 2000, inspired persistent arms smuggling from Egypt - with preference for heavy-duty long-range rocketry - and spawned the ambition to import such firepower into Judea and Samaria as well. Our defense downturn began in Oslo but was accelerated excruciatingly and superfluously by Barak, who made appeasement his bon ton. We're still paying for his extraordinary folly because Barak refused to nip in the bud Hizbullah's entrenchment and mega-reinforcement in bases he relinquished. He passed the buck to his successors, who likewise found inertia politically desirable. Thus the conspiracy of silence about Barak's recklessness continued. We were told we're sparing ourselves an annual average of 25 fatalities in Lebanon, but ignored some 1,300 dead in the terror spate sparked by Barak's incredible Lebanese indiscretion. Even Olmert's mishandling of the latest confrontation is directly traceable to fear of Lebanese entanglements, which Barak incompetently succumbed to and inculcated in Israel's body politic. The illogical inclination to conduct combat "cleanly" from the air is born of this mind-set. So is the aloofness towards the suffering of civilians abandoned to enemy predations and the unconscionable betrayal of Israel's Arab allies - be they of the SLA or those we ungratefully disparage as Palestinian "collaborators." Bringing Barak back to public life in any capacity is a travesty. Bringing him back to defense is heaping insult on injury. In Gallagher's resonating words, we must tell Barak that: Like a bad penny you've sure lost the glow …it can't ever be like it was then, Well, don't you fool with me, Don't you mess with my plans… Won't you just go away?