There's scarcely a more natural political pair than Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, beyond their taste for cigars, tycoons and luxury. They both served in the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, where Ehud was Bibi's commander. There was Hanan Crystal's 1986 prediction in Hadashot that UN ambassador Netanyahu and Central Command CO Barak would be the future Likud and Labor leaders. They were both prime ministers who were voted out of power, and have been striving to return ever since.
The prime minister-designate and his defense minister candidate share not only a past, but a future. They have been given the opportunity to return to the state's leadership with Bibi as commander and Ehud as his No. 2.
They have similar approaches to state affairs. Both consider Israel a fortified Western island in the heart of an Arab-Muslim ocean. Both both believe there is nobody to talk to and nothing to discuss on the Palestinian side, and neither believe a final status arrangement is near, if at all possible. Both saw Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni's Annapolis process as a waste of time.
They can both accept the Arab initiative, with reservations, as a basis for talks with the neighboring states, and probably would prefer to start with Syria.
Netanyahu, who had strained relations with the IDF in his previous term, would be happy to see Barak in charge of the general staff. Both are not enthusiastic about big military operations, and prefer covert moves. Barak will help Netanyahu moderate calls for harsh military action after terror attacks, and protect him from right-wing pressure to speed up settlement construction in the West Bank.
Barak's good relations with Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, Obama's secretaries of state and defense, will help Netanyahu forge good ties with America. This will be critical next year, when it's time to decide whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. At that moment Bibi will want Ehud Barak next to him in the bunker, like in the old days.
Only one thing can spoil this wonderful marriage: the character of the spouses, which has tripped them up before. Olmert also considered Barak a friend and political partner once, but when Barak joined his cabinet he became a subversive and bitter rival, and ousted Olmert from office. But Netanyahu has probably taken that into consideration.
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