Holding their noses
Shamir once said 'I don't care if it is reported that I can't stand Ehud Barak because he reminds me of Bibi.'
About a year after the beginning of Benjamin Netanyahu's term as prime minister, expressions of disappointment within Likud were on the rise - not now, but a decade ago, during his first term. Several years before, Netanyahu served as a deputy minister after returning from the United States, in Yitzhak Shamir's cabinet.
Netanyahu, whose main strength was his public speaking ability, was a sort of advanced version of Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon. But Shamir joined the crowd of those who were disappointed. In remarks not meant for publication, Shamir described Netanyahu's character in starkly critical terms. When asked to consent to the release of this portion of his comments, Shamir refused. "It's still too early, but I don't care if it is reported that I can't stand Ehud Barak because he reminds me of Bibi," he said, referring to Netanyahu.
Shamir, who is 95 years old, is not currently following Israeli politics from up close, so he is spared the shock of the current partnership between Netanyahu as prime minister and Barak as defense minister. When they were running against each other in 1999, Barak fashioned himself as the skilled surgeon compared to Netanyahu the hospital spokesman. It was clear in whose hands the care was better. Netanyahu got his payback when the two were competing on the American lecture circuit, bragging about the much higher speaker's honorariums he could command compared to the small change paid to Barak. He hinted that Barak's claims of financial success on the circuit were exaggerated and motivated by other considerations.
The alliance the two have maintained over the past year was forged as a result of the shock that both men, with their inflated egos, suffered in their loss of the prime ministership. In fact, the competitive ambition that marked their efforts years ago to join the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal special-operations force has no expiration date and can be adapted for survival purposes.
And what is good for an army unit's officers is good for their counterparts, such as fighter pilots, as if they come off the same production line. Former air force commander and IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz's promotional campaign for his book "At Eye Level" is tantamount to throwing his hat into the political ring in an effort to dispel the dull and arrogant image that has stuck to him. Halutz is a proper player for the national team, if not yet qualified to be captain or coach. The intrigues at General Staff headquarters that Halutz describes in his book have prepared him well for politics.
Shaul Mofaz as defense minister conspired with him against their mutual enemy, Moshe Ya'alon, in anticipation of the end of Ya'alon's term as chief of staff and Halutz's appointment as his successor. Subsequently, career major generals went after Halutz while the fighting was still raging on the Lebanese front and rockets were falling in civilian areas. He doesn't name names, and it is enough to frighten the reader with the prospect that some of them are still in the IDF, or that they are parked outside the IDF's Tel Aviv headquarters in an electric car with aspirations to be the next chief of staff. Current Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is also a possible opponent (as Labor Party leader) to Halutz in Kadima and Ya'alon in Likud in elections in 2016, trading barbs.
Halutz was a daring and wise fighter from the time he was a fighter pilot until he was air force chief. There was great logic in his appointment as chief of staff. He loses his courage in failing to name Barak when coming out against a "demagogic and hypocritical speech" that Barak gave, which he says was "shocking in its limitless cynicism." Halutz is shallow in his approach to the 1982 Lebanon war, and consistently ignores corruption and filth. His nose could not smell Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and one of their commanders who was removed following a Military Police investigation and subversion in the air force. He is in favor of a peace agreement with Syria, meaning that he agrees to giving back the Golan Heights, but he seeks forgiveness for his involvement in the disengagement from the Gaza Strip by giving the settlers veto power over evacuation of the West Bank in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
It's good that Halutz appears to be a potential threat to Barak, Netanyahu and their associates. It's not good enough that this is what he's managed to come up with. Halutz's version of events is not a bombshell. It is a subsonic boom that barely rattles the windows.