Opinion |

Ehud Barak Is Israel’s Only Chance

Today’s Barak understands what Prime Minister Barak didn’t want to know: Nurturing the settlements leads to nothing but devastation. He’s capable of beating the ultranationalist right in a way Shimon Peres never could

zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell
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Ehud Barak speaking at the Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016.
Ehud Barak speaking at the Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016. Credit: Ofer Vaknin
zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell

We have to admit that Ehud Barak has an insufferable personality; still, he’s the only person feared by the right. And just as we had the first Yitzhak Rabin, who was a total failure, followed by the second Yitzhak Rabin, who turned into our big chance to reach an agreement with the Arabs, maybe Barak, who’s now emerging from the depths of the shady business world, is a leader capable of pulling us out of the quicksand.

Had Barak been graced with a different personality he wouldn’t have made so many people who worked with him in politics hate him, and he wouldn’t have led an ostentatious and extravagant lifestyle after his retirement. But that’s not the main point; neither is the fact that unlike Benjamin Netanyahu, there’s no sword of investigations hanging over him. Important are his intellectual abilities, military past, security-based authority, and mainly his understanding of the depth of the abyss that the right is digging under our survival.

>> What the Israeli right gets wrong about security and the occupation, according to Ehud Barak <<

It’s true his desire to strike at Iran could have led to a military failure and serious tension in our relations with the United States and Europe. But even on this point his most recent statements convey the impression that he has learned his lesson and has drawn conclusions from the serious mistakes that led to the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000. Today’s Barak understands what the prime minister at the time didn’t want to know: Nurturing the settlements leads to nothing but devastation.

The key question is, are the leaders of the center-left capable of forgoing today’s petty ambitions and yesterday’s hatreds and recognizing that Barak is their best chance, if not their only one, not only to rescue the country from those seeking an apartheid regime here, but also to run the government?

It’s true that Barak is far from being a Meretz man to the left, but today, in the race to the top of the pyramid, that’s an advantage. Everyone in Yesh Atid and Zionist Union should look in the mirror: Do they really believe that the images reflected back can defeat the ultranationalist right? Thanks to what exactly? The talent, glorious past and courageous diplomatic plan of Yair Lapid? The charisma of Isaac Herzog or maybe Eitan Cabel?

Barak’s willingness to return to politics, which he’s openly signaling, is a tremendous opportunity for them too. Isn’t it better to play second and third fiddle with a conductor who has a chance of bringing them onto the international stage than to watch from the first row how the right is gradually destroying both the chance for peace and Israeli democracy?

Barak isn’t a full-fledged member of the left, but neither was David Ben-Gurion. Maybe our founding father dreamed at night about a model society, but in the morning he didn’t lift a finger to make the dream come true. Barak is capable of beating the ultranationalist right in a way Shimon Peres never could.

It should also be said to his credit, judging by his past career in government, that he wouldn’t dream of doing anything to damage the liberal regime in ways such as Israel’s new apartheid law, aka the nation-state bill. He wouldn’t curb judicial review, freedom of expression or the independence of cultural institutions. Above all, he knows that the settlements are a type of terminal illness and there’s no solution for Israel’s future except for dividing the country into two states.

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