In the Role of Party Pooper

It's not Barak who has changed, and it's not the situation that has changed. Only the pundits have changed.

Poor Ehud Barak. All he did was repeat recently the "there's no partner" formula he bequeathed to the Israeli discourse after his failure at Camp David and during the intifada - the formula that has become a consensus uniting right and left. And now he is discovering that the very same formula being explained as his attempt to "pass Benjamin Netanyahu on the right" is being described as a blow to the first signs of a diplomatic process. It is being condemned as interfering with the consolidation of new diplomatic programs. He is also accused of defying the leadership of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is suddenly being described as a responsible leader hoping for a two-state solution.

Barak has not changed his views; after all, the diplomatic-security situation has not changed. Some people even think it has worsened because severing the West Bank from the Gaza Strip makes the chances for an agreement less likely. In addition, the power and authority of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the PA in the West Bank have been undermined, Israel continues to control the West Bank, there is nothing new in the diplomatic plans and the ability to implement them, and the United States has lost the strength to use pressure to realize the plans. Barak will do everything he can to prove that "there is no partner."

In that case, why did his words provoke such a hostile reaction? Because commentators, experts and columnists adapted their response to their new mood. Until now they needed the "there is no partner" formula. Now, when they are becoming devoted to the illusion of the peace process, they have turned the formula and its inventor into party poopers.

It's not Barak who has changed, and it's not the situation that has changed. Only the pundits have changed.

With the Camp David failure and the outbreak of the second intifada, the Israeli public needed a narrative that would unite its parts, justify its deeds and allow it to deal with a difficult situation while describing the situation as a war for survival. The narrative presented by Barak, in which he offered the late PA chairman Yasser Arafat the moon and Arafat chose violence instead, has become resistant to any contradicting argument, fact or evidence. Barak and his disciples have succeeded in convincing the Israelis that the Palestinian rejection of the generous and unprecedented offers led to the wave of violence, and that the Palestinians are not ready to end the conflict, which is not territorial but stems from their refusal to accept Israel's very existence.

The "there is no partner" formula is what led to the peace camp's destruction. Anyone who dared present a more complex picture was accused of supporting the enemy. This narrative, which still dominates in describing the past, does not suit the new mood Olmert is nurturing for his own reasons. This mood is being eagerly adopted by people who until recently proclaimed the "there is no partner" formula and are now marketing its opposite.

It's amazing to see how Olmert, who was humiliated and ridiculed, has suddenly become "the person responsible for the policy of peace and security." He is obliged to "restrain" the defense minister, who dares to challenge his leadership. Olmert, who wants to appropriate the Palestinian issue, is keeping Barak away from any contact traditionally under the defense minister's aegis, and is trying to give him orders. But the pundits' decree is unequivocal: Barak's motives are personal; he is undermining the process out of fear that someone will succeed where he failed. And none of this prevents them from continuing to demand that the Labor Party leave the government and Olmert be replaced.

It's not a good idea for those who are suddenly discovering the missing "partner" to attack Barak with such fury and make light of his assessments, because there is a good chance the old slogan will come back and be useful. After the buds of the new diplomatic process have wilted under the care of gardeners Olmert and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Barak proves that he is not only a commentator, they will once again unashamedly raise the tattered flag of "there is no partner."