Opinion

Ehud Barak Is Not Good Enough

Ehud Barak would not be welcomed as a leader of the left, which demands perfection of its leaders and likes them unblemished or dead

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

For several hours over the holiday, people on the left of the political spectrum conducted stormy debates regarding the interview given by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Maariv journalist Ben Caspit. Actually, and this is what’s so interesting about the whole story, the arguments weren’t over the interview itself, over the content of Barak’s statements, his analysis or his gloomy predictions. There was agreement over all that and over the fact that he says things no other public figure of his stature would dare say.

It turns out that the issue bothering most of those people about the interview was whether Barak was using it to try to garner support for another leadership bid. The message was: let’s hope he fails. The question over whether Barak, the only prominent leader who is unafraid of being an avowed leftist, can help the situation by deciding on a comeback was pushed to the side by the other favorite topic of this political camp, and that is how Barak leads us astray.

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If his opponents were faced with a crystal ball showing that he could defeat Benjamin Netanyahu, would they change their tune? Would they suddenly not be so confident that the utmost priority needs to be not allowing Barak to attain a position from which he could return to politics? There’s no way of knowing, because those involved in the debate (leftists, I repeat), have been mulling over variations on a single topic, namely what little chance the left has of returning to power, since it has no vision or leadership. It’s as if even if Moses were brought back to life, he could not lead their camp to the Promised Land.

Few right-wingers could express these sentiments any better, apparently with just cause. The leftist base and its political leadership feed each other on doses of sick defeatism, and neither can envision a real chance of winning. How wondrous are your works, O Lord! All these issues were addressed by Barak in the interview.

He offered an explanation and, to some extent, solutions. But since he’s considered by all segments of the left as an unacceptable choice eight years after leaving politics, it’s obvious that if he himself were Moses brought back to life — wiser, more modest and cautious, and having learned from his mistakes and lacking political ambitions other than a burning desire to help the left and its leaders end the Netanyahu era, he would still be driven away, because the left demands perfection. It likes its leaders either unblemished or dead.

Senior figures in the Zionist Union party are not helping Barak find his place among their ranks. In his presidential bid in 2000, John McCain touted higher purpose over personal interests, but there is no concept more foreign to the Zionist Union. One’s personal career was always more important and Barak, as far as I understand, is no threat to the leadership of the party.

Over the last few months, I have held lengthy conversations with Barak and we continue to talk. I can only offer my intuition and say that he’s finished looking after his financial interests; that he’s wiser and more mature. He has become more like the late John McCain in his final years: identifying and warning of dangers without sugar-coating them. The former prime minister views the period that we are currently experiencing as the disintegration of Israeli democracy.

The continued rule of Netanyahu is dangerous. Any constellation of political forces that would stop him is worthy of serious attention.