Ehud Barak won the confidence of the Israeli public for the first and last time a dozen years ago when he ran against Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister. After a year and a half, he lost to Ariel Sharon and temporarily retired from politics. Upon his return, he lost not only to Netanyahu, but also to Tzipi Livni and Avigdor Lieberman.
A respectable politician would have joined the opposition, but Barak joined Netanyahu and Lieberman in exchange for the defense portfolio in their government, on the pretext of monitoring them and keeping them in line. It was as though Netanyahu were the pilot and Barak the navigator.
The two years in power that Barak shared with Netanyahu - and Lieberman - have proven that the Labor Party leader has not delivered on his promises. Indeed, he is among those who bear responsibility for the absence of the peace process. Barak, who was involved in maintaining contact with the Palestinian Authority during the Annapolis process, as a representative of the Olmert government, supported Netanyahu's decision to end the talks, which have yet to be renewed.
Barak has not kept his promises to shift Netanyahu toward a genuine striving for territorial compromise based on a policy of peace and security. Netanyahu has ignored any such efforts. When Barak made his positions known in Washington and spoke about dividing Jerusalem, Netanyahu rushed to announce that this was the defense minister's personal view and did not represent the government - a similar pronouncement to the one Netanyahu used to distance himself from Lieberman and his speeches.
In his various positions, Barak has come to know U.S. presidents up close, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. True, he didn't know Abraham Lincoln - but to judge by a statement attributed to Lincoln, that you can't fool all of the people all of the time, it would seem that the 16th president of the United States must have known people like Barak. That, at least, is what the Obama White House and the U.S. State Department seem to think, according to Barak Ravid's report in yesterday's paper, which indicated that Washington is fed up the defense minister's promissory notes regarding his ability to rein in Netanyahu.
After reading the report, Barak's party rivals hastened to meet, but they're no better than he is at calling for the Labor Party to quit the coalition. The Labor ministers' resignation would be welcome, but they are just about as powerless as their leader. The Labor Party desperately needs to put its house in order and acquire a new and invigorated leadership, and it must join the opposition. If it doesn't, it will find itself not only outside the government, but outside the Knesset as well.
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