Text size

Former prime minister Ehud Barak ended his interview with Dan Margalit on Channel One with advice to "the deep left," as he newly defines it: If we finally say that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is to blame for everything, only then will the peace camp come back into power. If Barak knows so well how to return to power, why doesn't he come back? After all, he, too, in his own opinion, belongs to the peace camp; and if not - to which camp exactly does he belong? We shall never know.

Even before he explains to us how exactly to get back into power and quickly, perhaps he will explain how one loses power so quickly. How, after a tenure of only 600 days, one loses public support in the blink of an eye and how one gets kicked out of the Prime Minister's Bureau.

For some reason, Margalit did not ask, but we have a question for Barak: If this was your definite impression of Arafat after Camp David, why did you go to Taba half a year later anyway? This is a sign that Barak also thought that things are not so simple. And we have already said a thousand times, without Barak urging us, that things are impossible with Arafat, but unfortunately also impossible without Arafat.

We never betrothed ourselves to Arafat. He was never our hearts' desire. When he ostensibly fulfilled the role of a reasonable partner, we related to him accordingly; and when he was revealed as an unreasonable partner, we treated him accordingly.

However, it must again be noted that it is not Israel, nor even America, that chooses the leader for the Palestinians. And I have news for U.S. President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Barak: An alternative Palestinian leadership will not arise on Israeli and American bayonets. Until Sharon and Bush replace Arafat, the latter is, in the meanwhile, replacing others, and no one can even vaguely point to any other leadership.

And what will happen if this alternative leadership is not found in the next few months? And what will happen if Arafat is elected again? And what will happen if in his stead, some crazy Muslim fanatic is elected? To all these questions, not even Barak has answers. And we always hesitate to embark on a route that is paved only with questions that have no answers.

It is very dangerous to walk in the dark, in the fog. I doubt that Sharon is really interested in replacing Arafat. This is because as long as Arafat is there, cooperating with him and playing into his hands, Sharon is enjoying American support; and above all he, can sit back and do nothing to forward the peace process - the thing he likes doing best.

Barak, by his own account, has had a great year: He has been abroad most of the time; he has made a lot of money; he has bought an expensive plot of land in Kfar Shmaryahu; and he is building a large house. We, on the other hand, have not had a great year at all. We have lived from one terror attack to the next; we have been in Israel the entire time; and we haven't even made money. Therefore, in contrast to Barak, we really aren't looking all that well; our face is not as relaxed as his and it is furrowed with more wrinkles. Those for whom the times are only good have time. Those for whom time only wrinkles their faces from so much worry do not have time. The citizens of Israel do not have time because, as has already been proved, time is really deadly. Time kills.

Barak has time, and Sharon has time, and Bush has time, and maybe Arafat has time as well, but the two peoples here do not have time because life is hell; not only are they getting killed, but many of them do not have food to put on their plates. And as time is pressing, we also do not have the possibility of waiting for Barak. This, apparently, is the reason I have not yet found anyone who is really waiting for him.

This is strange, or even very strange: For Barak, it is business as usual. He is taking care of his own affairs - a reserve soldier in the service of the nation, and if it sees fit to call him up, he will report for duty. But please don't call him up arbitrarily - only if the situation is really, really bad.

Who exactly will call him up and what is it he wants exactly - mass demonstrations in the public squares calling for him to return? Barak, then, is reserved for us only for SOS situations. When evil befalls us and the very worst happens, then we should give him a call; and he will check whether the situation warrants it; he will think it over; and he'll get back to us.

Barak now sees himself in the Messiah slot, and here, for a change, I agree with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres: If the Messiah does come, he will not be riding on the back of a rhinoceros.