The Change We Need

Fundamentally, Barak is nearly unelectable. He is too clever, too calculating, and is wrongly conceived of as being inhuman.

The man everyone loves to hate is also the one who brought about the change: Ehud Barak is the playmaker who forced primaries on Kadima and in so doing put an end to the Olmert era of lawlessness and corruption. The man everyone loves to hate is also the man who will make a change: Ehud Barak is the playmaker who will decide by the end of the High Holy Days whether a Livni government will be established or whether elections will be held. The Labor Party chairman has no chance of being the next prime minister, but he will determine the nature of the next government. He was not chosen by lots, but he will cast the die.

With regard to Olmert, Barak made every possible mistake before doing the right thing. The analytical warrior changed direction, and stopped and started, and dawdled for a full year without making a simple, clear public statement. That is why, even when he was ultimately the only politician who took a real step, he did not get real credit for it. Few people noticed that is was Barak who endangered himself, and few respected him for this. While Tzipi Livni is stepping on his back on her way to the government, Barak has been bleeding.

One might have expected an intelligent man like Barak to learn from his mistakes. One might have expected him to realize that what matters is not only deeds, but also the way they are presented. Reality is shaped not just by the mechanics of power, but also by the dynamics of consciousness. But Barak is standing pat, conducting himself in the government vs. elections dilemma with the same tortuous twisting that brought him down in the past. Even though, as a responsible adult, he is also now trying to do the right thing, very few people understand and admire him for it. Since he never stops shooting himself in the foot, he never stops bleeding.

Fundamentally, Barak is nearly unelectable. He is too clever, too calculating, and is wrongly conceived of as being inhuman. Nevertheless, the unelectable Barak won the trust of a majority of voters in 1999 because he positioned himself as an agent of change. That is his hope and his task now, too. If Barak continues to be identified with governmental floundering, his fate will have been decided. On the other hand, if he reinvents himself as an agent and a leader of change, he will give himself a new chance.

Barak entangled himself in a series of puzzling moves in the past two weeks. He met with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and then changed his mind, he threatened Livni and then capitulated. In the end, he presented her with four complex conditions, the significance of which can be comprehended by fewer than 1,000 Israelis. In so doing Barak proved once again that he lacks the wisdom of simplicity. He lacks the ability to stand up and say to the public what he really believes in, what his moral core is, where he is heading and what he will fight for.

The situation that Barak must explain to the public is not complicated at all; rather, it is simple in its cruelty. In the next two years Israel will face critical challenges. The Olmert government lacked the ability to confront them. It was inferior and parts of it were afflicted with corruption and shortsightedness. For that reason, it is absolutely imperative that the next government not be a continuation of the Olmert government. What is needed is a government of change. If Livni intends to form a government of change, she must be supported at all costs. If Livni intends to form a government of continuity, she must be fought with all our might. That is the entire Torah, short and sweet.

One means of bringing about the change is through a national unity government. But if Netanyahu refuses to cooperate then Barak must propose a different way - a government of national excellence, in which Livni and Barak create around themselves a new type of Israeli leadership. A leadership of quality and values, of level-headedness and responsibility, of change.

"Change" must become the new mantra of Labor and the man who heads it. Israel's Barak has neither the appearance nor the charisma of the American Barack, but he must adopt the same sweeping Obama slogan. He must associate himself with the same deep desire. He must offer a change with values, a change of administration and a change of behavior. He must also offer personnel changes. At the very least, he must demand that someone like Eli Hurvitz replaces Roni Bar-On as in the treasury and that someone like Uriel Reichman replaces Daniel Friedmann as Justice Minister. In return, Barak must promise to replace Yuli Tamir as Education Minister with Avishai Braverman. It's not personal, but without personnel changes there will be no reform. The failed leadership must make way for a new kind of leadership. A new leadership, a new political culture and a new form of governmental conduct will effect the change. Only they will make the Livni government a worthy government and Ehud Barak a worthy leader, a leader who might have a chance in the long run.