Barak Is Acting Like a Frustrated Baby

Barak's personal failure to appoint Galant evokes within him a need to change the rules of the game - even if the change is for the worse.

"Galant would have been approved as defense minister," Ehud Barak said at the cabinet meeting on Sunday, in an attempt to illustrate the apparent injustice done to Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant. "If Galant would have been a candidate for defense minister or strategic affairs minister," Barak claimed, "he would have probably received legal approval to serve in either of those posts."

Barak is right. If Galant, as a politician, was a candidate for either position, he would have been appointed. Ariel Sharon, with a sack full of Cyril Kern and Martin Schlaff, was elected to a second term as prime minister. Avigdor Lieberman, his file bulging with Michael Chernoy and Zeev Ben Aryeh, is the foreign minister of Israel. Ehud Olmert - boasting an impressive collection of Rishon Tours, the house on Cremieux Street and Bank Leumi - functioned for a significant time as prime minister. Barak is definitely correct: Had Galant been a candidate for a ministerial post, he would have been appointed.

What is interesting about Barak's statement is precisely the fact that it is accurate. And although it is accurate, it was uttered without the slightest awareness of its meaning. The defense minister, who has a reputation for wisdom, is unable to recognize the role reversal within his consciousness here, which goes like this: If we, the politicians, are appointed to critical positions even when our bodies are covered with moral warts, why should we probe the ethical conduct of a candidate for IDF chief of staff? Barak is in effect asking that we apply the same low moral threshold which absolves politicians of their misdeeds to the chief of staff candidates.

He turns the moral compass on its head, because he did not realize his goal of appointing Galant as the next chief of staff. In other words, his personal failure evokes within him a need to change the rules of the game - even if the change is for the worse. A pattern can be discerned here, by which the private imposes itself on the public, and an impulsive drive demands a victim at the expense of principles. Like a baby who has not achieved gratification, Barak believes the world must now change to prevent a recurrence of this frustration.

The frustration in the wake of his political failure led Barak, as he put it, to "remove all the masks." But when the masks come off, what do we discover? That the same people who decide when the Israel Defense Forces will go to war, who are supposed to decide whether to attack Iran, who in effect set for Galant the goals of the army he would lead, do not necessarily meet the criteria set for their subordinates. What an absurdity: the person with greater responsibility is required to meet lower standards.

That moment, during a cabinet meeting, when a senior minister criticizes a relatively successful screening system by citing an inferior screening system, pinpoints the precise location of the Israeli political system today: at the bottom of the moral scale. And Barak's statement is directly linked to the loss of shame regarding that very location.

The fact that there is no system in place to screen politicians who have lied and deceived their neighbors is a flaw in the system, not an example to be held up. The way the Israeli public has acquiesced to the lowering of the threshold imposed by politicians is a symptom of revulsion and a sense of hopelessness, and not the direction we should be going in. Barak's remark is sad because it is accurate, and even more so because he does not understand just how accurate it is.