Barak's Potential Big Bang II

Trickery is meant for war. Trickery also worked to defeat Ami Ayalon. But trickery does not put a republic in place. Not with trickery alone is a country renewed.

Ehud Barak's victory in the Labor primary was a necessary one. Necessary because Barak has to lead Israel's effort to contend with the Iranian challenge, the challenge on the northern front, and the challenge on the southern front. Barak is the best trained, most experienced and level-headed Israeli leader of our time, and he is the one Israel needs at this historic moment, when it must do everything in its power to prevent a war. Yet at the same time, it also must prepare for war.

But the manner of his victory was unbecoming. Barak was elected without saying a thing, without offering a vision, an idea or a path, without stirring excitement or hope, and without giving new promise. He was not elected as a democrat but as a general in a bunker, guiding his armies with sophistication in order to conquer the center of power. This is not the way Angela Merkel or Nicolas Sarkozy were elected, and this is not how Hillary Clinton or John McCain hope to be elected. This is not how worthy leaders are elected in properly functioning states.

Therefore, now that Barak is back as Labor chairman, he must recognize that while his victorious campaign stood the test of the ballot, it failed from an ethical and ideological standpoint. The campaign gave him an important power base, but not the necessary legitimacy. He still has to prove himself. Barak did not shatter the suspicion that surrounds him, and did not prove that he has a solid ethical core. The mandate Labor voters gave him is cautious - it is a mandate of "we'll wait and see." It is not a mandate of trust, but one of no choice.

As such, the coming weeks will be formative. They will prove whether Barak is a national leader in the making or someone who is excited by power plays; whether he is dealing with the root of the Israeli crisis or using it to once more make a solo climb to the top.

Barak's political objective is obvious: a Big Bang II. Whether he joins the Kadima government or not, he will dismantle it. Not only the government but also Kadima itself. Even if his victory affords Ehud Olmert several months of grace, the victory marks the beginning of the end of the Olmert era. In the zone to the left of Benjamin Netanyahu, there is something now that had not been there: a polar opposite to the prime minister.

It will take time, but it will happen: slowly, slowly, those tired of Kadima and disappointed with Tzipi Livni will make their way toward Barak. Olmert will serve as prime minister, but his strength will doubtless ebb away from him. It will not be long before Israeli politics reaches a melting point. There is a good chance that under Barak's leadership, Labor and half of Kadima will merge into the new Big Bang party.

There is an urgent need for a Barak bang, but it is not enough. Reuven Adler is a man of magical talents, but Israel cannot afford another empty Adler party. Therefore, Barak must immediately make clear what his principles, his values and his goals are. What does he intend to do with the power he is trying to accumulate? Will he really serve in the government that is trampling on the Winograd report? Will he really go along with the Olmert-Daniel Friedmann assault on the rule of law? Will he serve as a fig leaf for a rotten government that is corrupting the values of the State of Israel and is eroding its institutions? Will he turn his back on his declared commitment to shorten Olmert's tenure?

Barak often thinks about Charles de Gaulle. And indeed, the challenge now facing Israel is a Gaullist challenge. However, it will not be possible to create a Second Israeli Republic without courage and honesty. Trickery is meant for war. Trickery also worked to defeat Ami Ayalon. But trickery does not put a republic in place. Not with trickery alone is a country renewed.