Dayan, Not Ben-Gurion

Barak did not give up leadership of the large party that he helped to shrink. Rather, his voters gave up on him because they grew disgusted with his tricks.

This is the number of votes the Atzmaut party received in the Knesset election - 4,887, or 0.2 percent of the total, barely a tad more than the National Organization for the Protection of the Tenant, but double that of Has Mas ("Don't Talk about Taxes" ). No, that isn't a prediction for the next election, but actual results from the election for the 11th Knesset, in 1984. Then, the name Atzmaut was already claimed. Today, if legal advisors for Ehud Barak - who also created and headed the One Israel list in 1999 - have done their work properly, the name is up for grabs.

Tomer Appelbaum

Until yesterday Barak had hoped to imitate Yitzhak Rabin's path of downfall and resurrection: first prime minister, then the seven lean years, then defense minister, and finally prime minister and defense minister once again. Almost seven years after his defeat by Ariel Sharon, Barak indeed returned to the defense minister's office. Just one more step, and he would once again be prime minister.

Hitting this moving target of a dream would now require an almost impossible set of circumstances. For instance, if his party held the kingmaker's role between the two large parties, and each of them refused to cede the prime minister's job to the other, or if he became Benjamin Netanyahu's number-two and designated heir in Likud. (Netanyahu would agree, but his party wouldn't. ) The dream of Rabin in Barak's clothing will have to be shelved.

As a stand-in for Rabin, Barak pulled out three surprising precedents: Sharon, David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres. Sharon was presumably chosen because he abandoned Likud to form Kadima: His previous departure from Likud - to set up Shlomtzion, on whose ticket only Sharon himself and one Yitzhak Yitzhaki made it into the Knesset - has evidently been forgotten.

Ben-Gurion, who quit Mapai to establish Rafi, refused to return to Mapai's successor, the Labor Party. He remained on the sidelines with his new party, which liked Labor claimed to put state above party. Peres was with Ben-Gurion in Rafi, and 40 years later he joined Sharon in Kadima.

But how do any of these cases justify Barak's move? Ben-Gurion, even though he reconciled toward the end of his life with Menachem Begin, whom he loathed, to present a united front against their mutual rival, Levi Eshkol, would not agree to actually join up with Begin and serve as his deputy prime minister.

Had Barak made an effort, he could also have recalled David Levy (who quit Likud to found Gesher ) and Amir Peretz (from Labor to One Nation and back ). But his real model was and remains Moshe Dayan.

Both were charming and highly political Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff, proteges of a security-minded leader (Ben-Gurion in the case of Dayan, Rabin for Barak ), young men who aroused great expectations only to have them crumble into disappointment. Dayan - who helped found Rafi, albeit without enthusiasm - also found Telem, yet another movement that claimed to place state above party, toward the end of his life. And, like Sharon with Shlomtzion, he managed to win enough votes for only two Knesset seats.

Yet Dayan's true downfall was not the political sphere, but rather the military and foreign-policy spheres. As defense minister under both Eshkol and Golda Meir, he often - though not always - adopted progressive positions but was never willing to risk his job for them. The result was the 1973 Yom Kippur War, for which Dayan sought to atone by abandoning the Alignment (as Labor was then called ) without abandoning his job: He kept that by joining Begin's government.

He did help to make peace with Egypt. But afterward, in the talks on Palestinian autonomy, Begin turned against him and pushed him into resigning.

Barak volunteered to serve as Sharon's defense minister, but was blocked from doing so. He did hold this job under Ehud Olmert, then outflanked Kadima from the right in the role of Netanyahu's defense minister. But his contribution to the peace process in recent years was zero: Netanyahu trod water, and Barak was merely a hired gun, a sham leader with no followers other than the two men vying to become head of the Jewish National Fund.

Barak did not give up leadership yesterday of the large party that he helped to shrink. Rather, his voters gave up on him because they grew disgusted with his tricks. In the history of Israeli politics he will earn a place below even that of Dayan. Ben-Gurion he certainly is not.