Ehud Barak is living proof that a leader can influence history, for better or for worse. The first time was in Camp David, in July 2000, when he was the first Israeli prime minister to break the taboo on dividing Jerusalem.
The second time was when he got back from there, planted the "no partner" land mine and destroyed the public's faith in the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians.
Almost 10 years later, Barak can fill in the missing pieces regarding an agreement over Jerusalem and dismantle that land mine. It is in his power to change history for a third time, for better or for worse.
True, this time Barak is only chairman of a crumbling party and has never been further from the premiership. However, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Barak's weight is many times greater than his formal title.
The power of the Labor Party is greater than the 13 Knesset seats it holds. From a political perspective, Netanyahu's government can survive without the Labor Party, but from a diplomatic perspective, the departure of its only left-wing partner could spell disaster. That is the reason he is desperately courting every Kadima MK.
Labor under Barak's leadership provides a beautiful face for this government (everything is relative), which Labor under foreign minister Shimon Peres gave Ariel Sharon's government. If Barak announced he didn't believe the government wants to pay the price of peace, who would be left to persuade U.S. President Barack Obama that Netanyahu meant what he said in his Bar-Ilan speech? The foreign minister from Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman? Shas Interior Minister Eli Yishai? Perhaps Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, from Habayit Hayehudi?
Barak has come a long way since he turned himself into the main salesman of the "no-partner" brand. He seems to be convinced that the failure of a diplomatic move (like the failure of a military operation) can highlight a problem in implementation and the need to correct an anomaly, not necessarily a fundamental flaw. He does not miss an opportunity to explain that the alternative to a two-state solution is a binational state or an outcast apartheid regime. His analytical brain can describe the reality well, but does nothing to change it.
Brark proudly told members of the Labor Party Bureau Friday that the security situation has not been as good for as long a time. He did not need Gaza's firing on the western Negev over the weekend to know that this security is only as stable as the position of the Palestinian Authority.
The cruel embargo on Gaza and delays in the diplomatic process have recently begun to eat away at the motivation of the Palestinian Authority's security forces in the West Bank. How long will Palestinian police agree to act as the occupation's sub-contractors?
Cairo is somewhat hinting, somewhat threatening, that a failure of the Egyptian initiative to renew talks between Fatah and Israel will lead to renewed attempts by Egypt at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Rapprochement with Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal will obviously be one of the issues raised in the upcoming meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. The Arab peace initiative from March 2002 will be presented for ratification at the Arab League Summit, which is to meet in two months in Libya. If by then there is no essential change in the situation in the territories and in the diplomatic situation, this could be the eighth and last time it is presented.
Barak is proud of the fact that at Camp David he revealed "Arafat's true face." The time has come for him to reveal Netanyahu's true face. If the prime minister intends to reach a permanent status agreement, let him assure Abbas that he will delay the tenders for expanded construction in East Jerusalem until negotiations are over. If we are dealing the old Netanyahu, who built neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to undermine Oslo, Barak has no business being in a right-wing government.
What does he have to lose? He has already been prime minister, and he will not be again. At least he will not go down in Israeli history as the undertaker of the party that established the state.