Barak the Savior (Of Netanyahu)

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak speaks at a press conference, Tel Aviv, April 3, 2019.
Moti Milrod

Even among his own base, Benjamin Netanyahu is facing one of the most difficult moments of his life, personally and, above all, politically. He has embarrassed and confused even his sworn admirers, like the media personalities who have put themselves in the line of fire for him. His offers of up to half the kingdom to the Labor Party and Kahol Lavan have disoriented them. And if even they feel that way, it’s many times worse among the parties to the right of Likud.

But even as Netanyahu was wondering from where help would come, it has begun to arrive, in the form of Ehud Barak’s unbridled assault. Nobody knows better than Netanyahu how to exploit such situations to extricate himself from trouble.

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That, for instance, is what happened in the 2015 election, when he managed to persuade disappointed Likud voters that the campaign against him was actually aimed at them – mezuzah-kissers and believers in amulets. This time, former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit has come to his aid. “Bibi’s political base,” Shavit said, “are people whose moral threshold is at the level of grass.”

Barak’s return (“to save the Zionist enterprise”) has restored a bit of color to the despairing faces of those who hate our perpetual prime minister. The initial polls confirm their response. And of course, his return is being backed to the hilt by the media, which feel that this time, after all the failed campaigns they have waged against him, they are on the verge of ousting the man they loathed.

In the past, they assailed Barak, disdained his arrogance and blamed him for all the ills that beset the left. Now, when it serves their supreme goal – getting rid of Netanyahu – they have become his doormat, and also the doormat of anyone who joins him.

On Thursday, for instance, public radio’s supremely professional news station, Kan Bet, opened its 8 A.M. news broadcast with this astounding scoop: “All that interests Netanyahu is saving his skin.” This dramatic scoop was presented to us by Yifat Biton, a member of Barak’s new party.

In contrast to their treatment of Netanyahu – whose flaws (and there are quite a few) they have covered resolutely, with holy wrath – the media have paid little attention to Barak’s similar conduct, and it knows why. Here are two examples.

One is that pro-Barak nonprofit organizations, which as a rule raised and spent mysterious, unsupervised funds, received a surprising pardon from the media – and the prosecution. The second is the enormous sum of $2.3 million that Barak received from the Wexner Foundation in exchange for some mysterious secret “research.”

Barak, like the American foundation (which has meddled for many years in Israel’s internal affairs, as have other American Jewish foundations, including the Mandel Foundation and the New Israel Fund, with the goal of reshaping Israeli society to their own tastes), has refused to supply even a shred of information about this research, if there was any. Nor have they said why he, who isn’t known for his academic scholarship, was the one chosen to carry it out. But, as an old Israeli song says, you don’t ask questions when danger threatens. And Netanyahu, as we all know, endangers not only the future of Zionism (to quote the savior Barak), but the state’s very existence.

In the footsteps of the media and Barak, Kahol Lavan and, of course, Meretz will also assail Netanyahu in the same fashion. And the right – which, aside from its fear of losing power, fears that a leftist government will harm the things it cares about most, like settlements – will forgive Netanyahu for his ruthlessness and close ranks with him.

And there’s one more thing that needs to be understood: For many people on the right, Barak symbolizes exactly what Netanyahu does for many people on the left.