Ehud Barak merited the honor of being among the foremost of the experts who were asked to advise Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about a suitable candidate for the post of Israel Defense Forces chief of staff. Barak's candidate ought to be Lieutenant General Dan Halutz. And if not now, then in another seven years, after he has finished taking care of his family and is bored with touring India. After all, no one is better versed than Halutz in the IDF's weak points and the plans for rehabilitating it from the post-traumatic stress of the Lebanon war. And, most important, even though Halutz does not agree that he failed in his job, the outgoing chief of staff promises that he has learned the lessons.
That, almost word for word, is the policy that guides Barak's comeback campaign, and that is the recipe for success in Israeli politics. In properly run countries, a leader's failure is a guarantee of failure. In Israel, failure is a guarantee of success.
But the comparison does an injustice to Halutz. Barak's collection of failures from his tenure as prime minister is many times fuller, and graver, than the outgoing chief of staff's screw-ups in the recent war. Barak is responsible for missing the best opportunity ever to reach a peace agreement with Syria under the leadership of Hafez Assad. His cold feet at the last minute, at the end of the talks that took place at Shepherdstown in late 1999, led him to the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon. The result was Syrian and Iranian support for Hezbollah and the bolstering of this extremist organization's status, at the expense of moderate elements in Lebanon. Halutz - as well as Olmert and Amir Peretz, and first and foremost, residents of the North - paid the price
Halutz's failures in the occupied territories are also dwarfed by the disaster that Barak brought down upon Israeli-Palestinian relations. After having shut down the Palestinian channel in favor of advancing negotiations with Syria, he dragged Yasser Arafat into a predictable failure at the Camp David talks. Then, when the talks with the Palestinian delegation in Washington were moving ahead at full steam, Barak allowed Ariel Sharon to take a provocative stroll on the Temple Mount. After the intifada broke out, he refused to meet with Arafat, who sought to lower the flames. Barak also instructed then-IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz to enter into direct hostilities with the Palestinian security services headed by Jibril Rajoub, who stood like a wall between IDF soldiers and the Tanzim militias.
And, after all this, Barak, before resigning to enter the business world, handed the right not only the government, but the greatest gift of all: In order to cover up his failure to achieve an agreement with the Palestinians, he claimed credit for his success in proving that "there is no Palestinian partner." Even today, after almost seven bad years, the Israeli public is having trouble peering out of the "no partner" bunker that Barak bequeathed to Sharon.
And all of this is without even mentioning anything about the growth of the settlements and outposts under Barak's government and during his tenure as chief of staff. His vehement opposition deterred Yitzhak Rabin from evacuating the Jewish quarter of Hebron following the Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre of Purim 1994 -- and this allowed that famous woman who screamed "whore," and her neighbors, to continue making the Palestinians' lives a misery.
In order to erase his past and turn over a new leaf, Barak is shoring up his comeback campaign with a comparison between Rabin's first, failed term as prime minister and his second term, which is considered a success story. This is nothing but a mixture of insolence and insult to the intelligence. Barak knows that the circumstances of Rabin's death have awarded the former premier higher marks than even his second term deserves. Shimon Peres' first term as prime minister (1984-86), during which he tamed inflation and embarked on a peace process, was incomparably more successful than Rabin's second term.
In resigning in 1977, Rabin took responsibility for his wife's dollar account, and he then spent many years in the political wilderness known as the opposition. Amram Mitzna also found a suitable way to atone for his failures: He went into the wilderness of Yeruham. Barak went to earn money and remains a black box. Who will tell us now that Barak has changed -- Shimon Sheves? Who will testify that Barak has learned a lesson - his yoga teacher?
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