A Minister of War

The security establishment is oblivious to negotiations, Israeli commitments or lofty talk of peace.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is a bitter disappointment. He was the first statesman who dared suggest brave, though lacking, solutions. Now, he has turned into the chief saboteur of any chance for a calm in the fighting, a cease-fire or diplomatic progress. Barak has long forsaken talk of peace. He certainly does not believe in Olmert's peace initiative and istrying his best to destroy it.

If you fear Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu, how much worse can his potential damage to the peace process be than Barak's? Their rhetoric, as well as their actions, have now become indistinguishable. If calm seems at hand, Barak gives the go-ahead for a silly and dangerous assassination attempt in tranquil Bethlehem; just to rekindle the fire, lest there be a lull.

If there's a lull in Qassams fired, then Barak does everything he can to ensure their renewal to justify the "large-scale op" in Gaza he intends to make. IF Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is desperately trying to push forward talks, Barak eliminates any chance of bolstering his support. If Hamas suggests a cease-fire, Barak responds: "We will witness harsh scenes in Gaza before a calm is reached." If all's quiet on the northern front, then Israeli pyromania claims Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyah, according to allegations. The security establishment does as it pleases: Killing; destroying; barring; seizing funds; issuing orders to close stores and factories in the West Bank; allowing construction in West Bank settlements; utterly humiliating the Palestinian Authority. It is oblivious to negotiations, Israeli commitments or lofty talk of peace.

Barak, as vociferous as the most zealot settler or a Hamas leader, bragged about the Bethlehem operation. "Once again, we've proved that Israel will search and destroy murderers with Jewish blood on their hands," he said. Once again, he has proved that he talks and thinks only of revenge. Is he unaware of the 2006 High Court decision that prohibits targeted killings intended to punish, avenge or deter? Or is he simply ignoring it? One of the son's of those killed in Bethlehem said IDF soldiers promised to put his father whom he had not seen in a decade in a body-bag. Something for Barak to take pride in. He has unleashed the Israel Defense Forces on the Palestinians and ordered shows of force, including the failed Gaza op which killed 120 people and produced zero results. Hamas had been talking about a cease-fire, and who rejected it? Israel, the peace objector.

Instead of issuing a clear IDF order to calm the area to coincide with the government's new initiative, he is doing everything he can to disrupt it. And we have yet to mention morality: Long gone are the days when targeted killings were disputed. When people argued they were carried out only against "ticking bombs." Now, even retired terrorists are being killed in cold blood in their cars. They are charged with old crimes and executed without trial, instead of being arrested, a method that would prevent the next outbreak of violence while remaining moral.

Barak is not alone. Though his political party is small and ailing, it is nonetheless a political party, and its silence is abominable. Shas can milk more and more construction plans for the settlements, but Labor is not even trying to obtain its goals. Where have Amir Peretz, Ami Ayalon, Yuli Tamir, Shelly Yachimovich, Colette Avital, Raleb Majadele and Ophir Pines-Paz gone at a time that their party leader is leading them to oblivion? Why do they not raise their voices in protest? And why doesn't the prime minister restrain his defense minister?

When the conflagration begins, very soon, because of Barak's policies, none of them will be free from blame. They will all be remembered as full participants in the terrible disgrace. Then we'll remember how there used to be hope, but that the Labor leader, of all people, did everything he could to sabotage it. And no one did a thing.