Opinion

With Ehud Barak You Get Greed but Nothing About the Occupation

Ehud Barak in the Haaretz Conference on Democracy, Tel Aviv, March 28, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The trembling with excitement that engulfed left-wing Zionists with the return of the decorated son, Ehud Barak, attests more to the deficiencies of their camp than to the grandeur of its savior. Only bilge water might be churned up by the return of such a destroyer.

But it wasn’t Barak who destroyed the Zionist peace camp. This enfeebled camp brought itself down on its own. It took only one statement by Barak claiming that “there is no partner” for the camp to fold up its banners and go to the beach – the occupation could go to hell.

And so it did. Barak returned and the vision was rekindled: what energy, what a killer instinct. In a video he posted, look how he lops off the cap of a soda bottle with one blow. In this way he’ll lop off the head of the enemy of the people. Only he can do it. When hatred of Benjamin Netanyahu remains the only topic driving left-wing Zionists, Barak is their savior. But the Barak of 2019 is an illusory promise, a false prophet. We believed in him, he failed us, he won’t change.

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In a closed meeting last week where he laid out his talking points, nothing of substance was apparent other than warnings about Netanyahu. He used the word “gravitas” five times. He likes that word.

But he didn’t utter the word “occupation” once. In his endless tweets, the ones that have renewed his glory as a fighter – against Netanyahu of course, what else? – there’s no mention of the occupation. It doesn’t exist, it’s not important, it’s of no interest to someone with airs to lead the left. The right is busy with making the occupation permanent while the left hails the bottle-cap lopper.

The occupation isn’t on Barak’s agenda. His global business deals are. He says his services are very expensive and takes pride in that. He charges his clients a fortune and revels in that fact. Gidi Weitz reported in Haaretz a few days ago that he's not above this, either. It’s his right to feel this way. It’s also his right to provide convoluted explanations – his brilliant expositions could exhaust anybody. Maybe no legal lines were crossed in his transactions, but one thing is in no doubt: He’s avaricious to a degree that wouldn’t shame Netanyahu.

No one asked him why he needs all those millions, buying more and more apartments in swanky high-rises. Yes, as a private citizen, that’s his business, but someone pretending to lead the left shouldn’t be as greedy as he is.

Greed has become something valued in Israel, and the avarice have become targets of envy and models of emulation. The days are long gone when a Knesset member parked his Mercedes convertible at the far end of the legislature’s parking lot so people wouldn’t see it. Barak stands on the balcony of his spacious apartment and boasts about it. What’s wrong with that? After all, he has realized the dream of many people; let the envious drop dead.

What’s wrong is the greed. Barak doesn’t even try to hide it. “You couldn’t afford me,” he brags. He doesn’t recognize the boundary between business success and greed.

Now he’s running at the head of another generic party of the center-left, another one led by a former general, another millionaire who worries about the future. Once again we have two generals topping the list, a Mizrahi woman and a religious person, people who have switched from one party to another several times in order to become Knesset members.

Once again we have good-old-boys’ talk about how he was in a boat commanding a famed unit’s daring operations, most of which were childish and unnecessary, some of them bordering on criminal, with his subordinate Netanyahu taking part. Once again we have the killing of Arabs as the ultimate test of patriotism. Once again it can be said that his only contribution was the withdrawal from Lebanon.

He too knows that only this will guarantee his place in the history books, but this doesn’t get him to draw the obvious conclusion: Those are the only courageous acts that will be remembered. He has no intention of returning to that mode of action.

He’s brilliant and very knowledgeable. He’s eloquent and proud of his businesses. Let him continue with those. Only those. And leave us alone.