Because I slipped on a banana peel or something like that, I’ve been unable to write for about three months. When did I discover that something had changed? When I heard a taxi driver describe the behavior of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak as “double insanity,” an unflattering psychiatric expression, and when I heard MK Daniel Ben Simon (Labor) say that a pair of rogues had taken over the country.
With the exception of its improved economic situation, Israel is in bad shape. In its relations with the world it is losing points. Who would have believed that a country that aspired to be a light unto the nations is gradually turning into an object of criticism whose values and policy are being treated as something liable to drag the world into a nuclear war?
After three months of refraining from writing, I find Israel in a process of internal deterioration. Poverty, crime, the weakening of personal security, the ease with which people murder and are murdered, the drunkenness, the violence, a president who is a rapist, political corruption. These things didn’t start now, but they never used to be done in broad daylight. The fire in the Galilee, the fire on the train and the lack of means for dealing with disasters such as the earthquake that the experts are predicting have increased the public’s lack of confidence in its leadership.
If once we were proud of our nuclear capability, today not many are eager for Israel to attack Iran. If the 30 puny Scud rockets that Iraq launched at the center of the country in 1991 caused tens of thousands of people to flee Tel Aviv, is our home front capable of facing the tens of thousands of missiles that will be aimed at it? In an interview on Channel 10 television, Bibi was asked how he would react if Hamas made good on its threats. His answer was “Our enemies know not to trifle with me. If they fire, the response comes immediately.” The question is: How does he know they know that you don’t trifle with him? The answer is simple: He knows it from Barak.
The report about the U.S. administration’s disappointment with Barak sheds light on the political partnership that Bibi and Barak have developed. “A one-of-a-kind partnership,” according to one MK. They whisper secrets to each other, they meet often and they speak over the phone. Bibi, according to those in the know, is concerned that ever more countries will distance themselves from Israel and there will be a wave of global recognition of a Palestinian state. He’s afraid Israel will become a minority among a hostile Muslim majority.
There is a symbiosis between the two − each justifies the other’s failures. Bibi is the justification for Barak’s failure − staying in a right-wing government controlled by Likud-Lieberman-Shas. Barak lends legitimacy to the diplomatic freeze by having served as its defender while working with the Obama administration. He presented himself in Washington as the responsible adult, promising that he would convince Bibi to extend the freeze. As Netanyahu’s advocate he didn’t keep his word. It was not unexpected that we would hear Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff until early October, say the United States made a mistake when it thought Barak was capable of bending Netanyahu.
Bibi and Barak are linked in their desire to remain together in the government; the urge of two ambitious politicians who failed as prime minister one after the other a dozen years ago or so. If there is disappointment, it’s not all with Bibi, a Greater Israel advocate whose government is based on a right-wing majority. To the question of what Barak seeks in this government, there is one answer: He wants to be defense minister. He is focused on himself, flaunting his wealth and the good life.
He can’t stand Arabs; nobody has ever heard him as a leader express a desire for peace. All he knows is how to interpret and analyze situations. Nobody has heard a word of criticism or reservations from him about Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He doesn’t mind sitting as a minority in a government of Shas or Lieberman, or right-wing MK Yaakov “Ketzeleh” Katz (National Union) or settlement leader Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever − as long as he’s defense minister.
He is full of himself and boundlessly arrogant. As deputy chief of staff he called Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. commander of the invasion of Iraq in 1991, “Kleinkopf” (“small head”). When he was appointed chief of staff he explained to then-Defense Minister Moshe Arens how much more important than Arens he was as chief of staff, because he was subordinate directly to the government. Now as defense minister he is saying and doing the opposite. The defense minister is king, while as far as he’s concerned, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is nothing more than a doormat.
Barak recently said that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was a Churchillian parody of a leader. It would be more accurate to say that about Barak. He’s a parody of a leader who is slowly but surely disappearing into oblivion.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now