In an appearance a few days ago, the Defense Minister spoke disparagingly of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and said that unlike her, he would have been able to put together a government in three weeks.
He was right. Had he been called upon to form a government, he would not have had to deal with Ehud Barak. This is a tremendous advantage, because he would not have been faced with someone who is in such desperate need of love and recognition that he needs to document this in a long and convoluted agreement. He would not have faced someone who drove Livni crazy for four weeks with demands for personal honors and bombastic titles detailed in the coalition agreement. Would he be senior deputy, or the most senior of deputies, and how exactly would she address him and with what speed would the law be amended so that he would also be chairman of the opposition should Labor resign from the coalition? All this, and he is not even a member of Knesset.
Had Barak put together a government, he would not have been faced with someone who shattered the possibility of an agreement with the Pensioners' Party, because when he demanded millions for the pensioners he forced Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan to condition his entry into the coalition on a more significant achievement, an impossible task given the budgetary situation.
Had he formed a government, he would not have been faced with someone who irresponsibly demanded excessive funds for the ministries headed by Labor Party ministers, and who immediately after signing the agreement, submitted an addendum with an insane bid for an additional NIS 4 billion for the defense budget - and all of this at a time when the financial hurricane raged outside and every shekel was needed for a possible rescue plan.
Had Barak conducted the negotiations, he would also not have had a problem closing a deal with Shas within three minutes. He would simply have agreed to everything. With the greatest of ease he would have increased the National Insurance Institute child allowances and relinquished negotiations with the Palestinians.
And how do we know this? By his behavior after he won the election in 1999, when he rushed into the arms of Shas, even while his loyal voters stood in Rabin Square, full-throatedly shouting "anything but Shas."
Barak brought Shas in and gave it everything. He gave it the Tal Commission, which immorally legitimized dodging service in the Israel Defense Forces, contrary to his solemn promise on the eve of the election; he gave it a number of key government ministries and he gave them huge budgets that increased the party's power.
Nor would Barak have had any problem signing on not mentioning Jerusalem in the negotiations - a provision that Livni opposed. Before Shas could have even formulated this request, Barak would have leapt up and said, Don't trouble me with Jerusalem, I'm prepared to sign on comprehensive non-negotiations with the Palestinians. After all, I say "there's no one to talk to," and "there's no partner on the other side," and "the Palestinians are not ready for an agreement."
In this way, Barak would have established a government within three weeks, but this would have been a government of paralysis and crisis that would not have survived more than a year and a half, exactly like his first government.
This is also why he is now bringing in 10 Knesset seats in the public opinion polls, half the number MK Amir Peretz obtained. Strategically, too, Barak has lost any sense of direction. He believes that the public votes for Labor because of its social democratic approach and because if he listens to MK Shelly Yachimovich and Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini he will gain votes at the ballot box. He does not understand that precisely the opposite is the case. Labor voters have never come from the lower classes. They have also never come from the peripheral towns and from the Mizrahi communities. Labor's base voters have always come from the middle and upper classes. They have always voted for Labor in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Aviv, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia and the Haifa neighborhood of Denya. There, they do not believe in all of Barak's new demagoguery about swinish capitalism. There, they are not buying the populism promulgated by Yachimovich and Eini. There, they are interested in a market economy and in not increasing government spending, which would inevitably lead to tax increases falling smack on them.
The middle and upper class - "the bourgeoisie" - voted Labor for a different reason: the hope of achieving peace. They believed the leaders of the Labor Party would sit down with the other side and conduct negotiations eye to eye. They believed the leaders of the Labor Party would be prepared to give up land in return for peace.
But now, with Barak positioning himself to the right of Livni and very close to Likud MK Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu MK Avigdor Lieberman, why should they vote for him? For that, they already have Netanyahu, and the genuine original is always preferable.
Thus, the middle and upper classes have abandoned the Labor Party, out of a realization that nothing can be expected of Barak on the issue of peace. Thus, Livni has stolen the bourgeoisie from Barak, because unlike him she is talking about negotiations and hope for peace. Because of all this, Barak is not going to establish a government, not within three weeks and not within 365 days.
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