The collapse of Israel' s policy in the Gaza Strip has landed on Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a particularly embarrassing time. His line of argument against toppling Prime Minister Ehud Olmert upon the publication of the Winograd report has been based on the necessity of having himself, Barak, in the role of defense minister and the importance of "government stability." Ehud and Ehud, are like Andy and Yoni, the tennis doubles champions, but reality and Hamas have made a laughingstock of the governmental duo, and they are looking like the prankish Max and Moritz.
Barak and Olmert have pretensions of being far more experienced that their predecessors, former defense minister (now Labor MK) Amir Peretz and Olmert the First, who was the prime minister during that summer in Lebanon, and since then has learned and improved. In fact, Olmert's functioning in terms of diplomacy and defense has been and remains problematic. Even the transition from Peretz to Barak has not added significantly to Israeli wisdom.
The need for governmental stability did not interfere with Barak's acting to depose Peretz a few weeks before the air force operation in Syria. Who if not a former commander of the General Staff's elite special-operations force should know there is no connection between the ability to plan a special operation in secret against an enemy who is not aware of this and the friction in fighting an active enemy. The same Israel Defense Forces and the same prime minister, Menachem Begin, who attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor became embroiled a year later in the 1982 Lebanon War. The aerial operation in Syria on September 6 of last year does not indicate anything about the general readiness of the IDF. The boasting about the rehabilitation of the army also requires proof: What has been chalked up are Inputs (attention, training) but not outputs (combat achievements), because the IDF has not faced another test.
Vice Premier Haim Ramon's choosing to brag about the quality of the decision-making in the Syrian affair was especially canny. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and the head of the Investigations and Intelligence Branch in the police, Major General Yohanan Danino, who are authorized to embark on a criminal investigation, are afraid to be considered oppressors of Ramon; they, after all, were the ones who led to his conviction for an indecent act on a female military officer.
The IDF's chief censor Colonel Sima Vaknin-Gil has remained furious and frustrated and she is not alone in feeling thus. The official system harasses journalists and civil servants and spares politicians. In advance of the operation in Syria, Olmert and Peretz appointed the former head of security at the Defense Ministry (Malmab), Yehiel Horev, to guard the secret, and the Shin Bet security service equipped itself in advance with an order from Tel Aviv District Court President Uri Goren.
When the new head of Malmab, Amir Kain, was appointed, journalists were summoned to him for a clarification, to find out what had been leaked and to stop them from publishing. Now Ramon is talking, and Kain is keeping silent. Barak is sharing a pup tent with Olmert.
Olmert demands only of others that they keep the military and politics separate. As a soldier during his compulsory military service, contrary to a General Staff order, he continued his party political activity in the Free Center in the Knesset. As a candidate for the Knesset during the Yom Kippur War he stage-managed a photograph of himself in IDF uniform at Ariel Sharon's division command. During the last elections he enlisted the help of IDF pensioners, who decked themselves in their ranks and their combat roles, brigade commanders and not - perish the thought - mere company commanders.
Barak is prepared to risk political suicide for the sake of the hero of 15 pages of moral turpitude, decked in negative "public norms," out of the 200 pages of summation sent to the state prosecutor by the team that investigated the Bank Leumi affair; the public has the right to know exactly what is written there. The assessment at the Israel Police is that in the summer further summations can be expected in the other investigations against Olmert.
Even if Barak is not interested in government corruption, Israel deserves at long last, for a change, perhaps in honor of its 60th birthday, an honest and responsible prime minister.
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