Ehud Barak: I'm Better Suited Than Netanyahu to Lead Israel

Former Israeli prime minister says he would seriously consider reconciling with former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi in order to replace Netanyahu

Ehud Barak speaks during the 19. Swiss Economic Forum SEF, in Interlaken, Switzerland, June 2, 2017.
Anthony Anex/AP

Former prime minister Ehud Barak claimed Wednesday that he was more seasoned and qualified to lead Israel than any other candidate, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Barak spoke in an interview with Amnon Abramovich, a commentator for Israel Television News Company. In a part of the interview that wasn’t broadcast, Barak said that to replace Netanyahu he would seriously consider reconciling with former army chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Abramovich tweeted.

Abramovich asked Barak why he didn’t run for election, since “the tweeting policy is cowardly, a behind-the-back move.” Barak said it was the most convenient avenue of communication for him at this stage.

Barak, who beat Netanyahu by a 12-point margin in the 1999 prime ministerial election but lost by a 25-point margin to Ariel Sharon in 2001, said many people have asked him if he’d run in the elections. Some, he said, showed him a survey from four months ago which showed that if he challenged Netanyahu he’d get most of the secular vote.

However, Netanyahu would get the most votes overall, he said. “But neither of us gets as many as 40 percent of the vote; 35 percent of the public doesn’t know whom to vote for, with Bibi prime minister and me as a tweeting citizen,” he said.

“I don’t need encouragement, I’m immodest enough to see that objectively, judging by record, experience, being internationally known, intimate familiarity with security issues, statesmanship and economics, I am today more seasoned and more qualified to lead Israel than any other candidate, including Netanyahu, who is experienced but incapable of making decisions.”

After the broadcast, Abramovich tweeted that he asked Barak about setting up a new party led by a number of prominent figures. Barak said, “It’s an excellent idea, but premature. Such a list must be formed on the eve of elections,” according to the tweet.

Abramovich wrote on Twitter that he asked Barak if he’d be willing to reconcile with Ashkenazi to replace Netanyahu. “He said ‘when the time comes I’ll give it serious thought,’” Abramovich tweeted.

This isn’t the first time Barak’s name has been brought up as a possible candidate in the next election, despite Barak’s stated support for Labor’s recently elected leader Avi Gabbay.

In the past six months Barak attacked Netanyahu on his Twitter account several times, often mentioning the police investigations the prime minister is embroiled in.

Public opinion surveys published on Channel 10 News and the News Company some two weeks ago indicated a fall-off in the Likud-led right-wing bloc’s popularity, and a strengthening of the left-center bloc. A Channel 10 News survey predicted Likud would get 26 Knesset seats to Yesh Atid’s 22. According to the News Company’s survey, Likud would get 24 Knesset seats.

The quarrel between Barak, from the time he was defense minister, and Ashkenazi, then chief of staff, developed into a bitter rivalry. The rift deepened beyond repair with the emergence of the so-called Harpaz document, which detailed plans by Ashkenazi’s supporters to smear Barak.

The state comptroller found that Ashkenazi’s staff gathered materials that could make Barak look bad, while also determining that the defense minister had held up appointments made by Ashkenazi.