Opinion

It Is Time for Change, Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak at a press conference in Tel Aviv, April 3, 2019.
\ Moti Milrod

Had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s initiative to cancel September’s election gotten anywhere beyond that most fascinating, limitless place in creation – his brain – they would have had to call the enabling legislation “The Ehud Barak Bill.”

Barak apparently thought so himself because he hastened to convene a news conference to announce that he was starting a new party to kill the election-cancelling initiative before it could get anywhere.

The often-heard opinion that his move just meant to show that Kahol Lavan was ready to negotiate with Netanyahu toward a unity government now and thus would be ready to do so after the September 17 election as well, evidently didn’t impress Barak. Perhaps that’s because of the great importance he tends to attribute to himself, an importance that leads him to believe that most of what takes place is happening in response to him, and maybe he’s right.

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I lean toward another explanation. Barak is an egocentric who sees himself as the center of everything; but he’s also blessed with a capability of placing himself in the center and forcing everything that’s going on to react to him. Indeed, Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan share a common fear of Barak taking the stage. Barak and his prospective party’s entire political goal is to remove Netanyahu and set straight all that has deteriorated as a result of the constant damage the prime minister has been doing to state institutions.

If that sounds familiar, you’re right. Kahol Lavan was founded ahead of the April election exactly for the same purpose. There is no better evidence of its abject failure than Barak taking the podium now and telling them to move over, please, I’ll show you how it’s done. “The lack of hunger for power, the lack of fire in the belly were the problem in the last election,” Barak said at his news conference, also noting how in contrast, “Netanyahu fought like a wounded animal struggling to survive.”

If Barak looks like he’s on speed, all fire and brimstone, Gantz looks like he’s on his fifth sedative. If Barak speaks like he’s in a trance, his hand pointing the way urgently to the front, Gantz looks like he’s hypnotized, as if someone has taken control of his mind. Or, as someone sarcastically tweeted: “Gantz reminds me of Rabin. After the assassination.” The amount of hope invested in the 35 Knesset seats that Kahol Lavan won has run out fast. Barak has entered the vacuum with the opposite message: It’s not the size of the party that matters, but the size of the bloc.

Contrary to the previous election, in which all the participants seemed filled with hope, the current round belongs to the battered and injured, Netanyahu more than anyone, but let’s not forget those who fell by the wayside: Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. The Union of Right-Wing Parties keeps feuding and breaking apart, the Labor Party has crashed, Meretz has survived by the skin of its teeth, and of course Kahol Lavan is suffering from severe disorientation.

Barak has made an entry as a fresh candidate, but he’s weighed down by more than a little baggage. While he is the only one who can rescue the dying Zionist left, many still remember how he broke up Labor and forged an alliance with Netanyahu. And let’s not forget how Lieberman has gained new life.

Something about the juxtaposition of Barak and Lieberman is worrisome: Both have a passionate drive to bring the house down on Netanyahu. If Barak cooperates with the most dangerous person in politics, it would confirm the battered, shell-shocked left-wing camp’s worst fears about him. For Barak’s greatest advantage is of course his disadvantage, too: He doesn’t give a damn about Netanyahu, but unfortunately he doesn’t give a damn about his political allies or voters either.

"It’s time for a change, in the Jewish sense,” he said at the news conference. Let’s hope he understands the meaning of his remarks and commits himself to them fully.