Opinion

Does Ehud Barak Have Any More Jeffrey Epsteins in His Closet?

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak holds a press conference at Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv on June 26, 2019.
AFP

Ehud Barak’s forceful return to politics came to a discordant screech last week after Haaretz’s Gidi Weitz exposed Barak’s ties with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender. A few days later, the car began to catch fire – a photo that was miraculously conjured by the British tabloid The Daily Mail showed Barak near Epstein’s New York residence with a scarf wrapped around his face.

With all due caution, it wouldn’t be groundless to assume that Barak is suffering a bout of character assassination by the Bibi-ist right, which is trying to link him to pedophilia. This odiousness – by people touting innocence until proven guilty and constantly whining about the “libels” spread against them – isn’t emanating from anonymous tweeters or even “journalists” working for the right. It’s coming from Likud’s official Twitter account, which is backed by repugnant invectives by the prime minister’s son, whose account serves as the filthy mouth of the Bibi-ist electorate.

All this is happening while in real life, more real than any photo or speculation, three indictments subject to a hearing are pending against Israel’s prime minister, one of them for bribery.

Ehud Barak's picture published by the Daily Mail in which he is seen entering Jeffrey Epstein’s New York home with his face concealed.

Nevertheless, Barak isn’t without responsibility for his situation, which now appears pretty shaky. His return to politics, this time wearing the peaked cap of the anti-corruption warrior, challenging the corrupt-in-chief from the prime minister’s residence, can’t be burdened with skeletons in the closet in the form of a business partnership with a convicted sex felon.

Then there's the $2.3 million from the Wexner Foundation; Barak refuses to say exactly why he received the money and says the foundation doesn't want to disclose the reason either. The right wing will make sure this won't fall off the agenda.

Unlike the delusionary, despicable allegations brought up against Benny Gantz about an unstable mental condition or sexual harassment at a boarding school when he was a youth, in Barak’s case, his partners and deep fondness for money, which may lead him to bad places, raise big doubts that must be cleared up.

In a couple’s life there sometimes comes a moment, usually after a blunder or an unpleasant discovery, when one of the partners looks into the other’s eyes and asks: “Is there anything else I should know about?”

The center-left voters are now in that moment with Barak. To trust him and renew their vows with him, to embrace his clear advantages in the war against the alliance of corrupt politicians and religious fundamentalists headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, to give Barak the tailwind he so desperately needs, we have to ask him now: Is there anything else we should know about?

Barak’s predicament is falling like ripe fruit into the hands of Labor chief Amir Peretz, whose fantasy is to see Barak fold and disappear from the game. The background for this is clear. One of Barak’s confidants has said that missing him is like a woman who yearns to get pregnant again while forgetting what a headache and heartache it is. In any case, Peretz’s fantasy will remain exactly that. Barak is expected to fight to the end, with or without a tie-up with other parties.

A full disclosure by Barak will be all the more important if the left sticks to its characteristic self-destruction and Labor, Meretz and Barak's Democratic Israel run on separate tickets. If more discoveries pop up around Barak his party will become the most vulnerable of the three, so much so that it could fail to reach the 3.25 percent electoral threshold.

For his own good, but more importantly, for the good of the camp, which can't afford to waste 100,000 or so votes if Democratic Israel fails to reach the threshold, Barak must clear up the fog. He simply must speak out.