Who Understands You, Gabi, Better Than I

Barak doesn’t like to share and isn’t content unless he has it all.

The Hebrew mother has had an illuminating fortnight that has made her vision go black.

First she went with her husband and children to see “The Gatekeepers,” the documentary film in which former heads of the Shin Bet Security services confess their superiors' sins and try to save their own skins. Then she read Yuval Diskin’s impressions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – and the way world-shaking decisions are taken here. And this week, she feasted her eyes on the State Comptroller’s Report about the Harpaz affair and she said to her husband: “Now I know into whose hands we have entrusted our sons.”

Who understands you better than I do, Gabi Ashkenazi, and maybe now they will understand me better, too; in this we are brothers.  We hardly know each other. Sometimes you came to visit Moshav Margaliot as GOC Northern Command, and you always impressed me as a good fellow in the good sense of the word. So what happened to you all of a sudden as chief of staff? Even you are now finding it hard to recognize yourself and to explain the change that occurred in you. And not every dubious friend of yours is you.

After all, the comptroller isn’t attributing to you any intentions of a putsch. The “slanderous material” wasn’t aimed, according to the report, at extending your term in office nor at shooting down Yoav Galant’s candidacy for the position. If so, what was the motive for your getting entangled in a network of webs spun by insects or larvae around themselves?

All the signs indicate that Ashkenazi simply couldn’t stand Barak. The chief of staff was fed up with his deadly paranoia. This was the motive. And he was fed up with the minister’s envy of the slightest praise or kind word that happens to have been directed at a colleague.  I, too, was a colleague of that sort, as education minister in Barak’s government, and from the start of our joint term in office I never managed to understand: Why is he out to get me, why does he have to prove every single minute that he is the boss?  Does it make sense that the first among equals will envy one of the equals? Logic suggests precisely the opposite: Indeed, they will share the credit among them and the top guy will get more than his share.

But Barak doesn’t like to share and isn’t content unless he has it all. I once asked one of his aides, who eventually also fled: Maybe you know what he wants from my life? And the aide suggested an explanation to me: Everywhere we visit, they sing your praises to him in order to give him pleasure – but pleasure, his ass.

At that time I came to a conclusion: Barak wants to trip me up so I won’t lord it over him, lest I scorn him in my heart for his manners and mores.

It's not just Ashkenazi – he also wanted to force a deputy on me, who wasn’t suited to the task. The Shas education network had been rotten and there was an urgent need to clean it up. No representative on behalf of the ultra-Orthodox party was going to do the work; no jug of cream was going to guard the cat.  And he also demanded of me to pay Shas NIS 100 million as a coalition tax, only to appease the rabbi’s confused mind. I didn’t agree and Barak drove me crazy. My day’s work became a daily hell and the joy of doing was gone. Who can understand what Gabi felt better than I can?

But there is a difference between us. The army chief of staff is the most senior position and nevertheless a civil servant, but I was nobody’s servant, not even Barak’s – that’s all I needed. I was elected by the public like he was. Unlike Ashkenazi, I decided to throw in the towel and to resign from the position I had most desired all my life, because paranoia is a contagious disease. In another moment, I felt, my mind would sicken too. And what would the Hebrew mother think about the clean hands and mind of the minister in charge of her children’s education? This question, too, passed through my mind.

Barak disqualified Ashkenazi because of his defects and succeeded in inflicting on him a permanent defect. From now on, the former chief of staff will limp wherever he goes. What a pity.