The Comeback Boys

Bibi and Barak, with their aspirations to return to the prime minister's office, "The Sunshine Boys" - a couple of vaudeville entertainers who decide to get back together for a TV special but whose troubled past make it impossible.

Bibi and Barak, with their aspirations to return to the prime minister's office, are reminiscent of the comedy film "The Sunshine Boys" about a couple of vaudeville entertainers who decide to get back together for a TV special but whose troubled past make it impossible.

Netanyahu has not yet announced his intentions, but he is putting together a camp that supports him as Sharon's successor. Barak, on the other hand, is about to officially announce his return to Labor to run for election as party chief.

These two have quite a bit of nerve, not to say chutzpah, to seek a return to the jobs from which they were ejected like ballistic missiles. Both slammed the doors on their careers leaving behind ruins. They quit their positions as party heads and their membership in the Knesset, announcing that they were going into private life. In fact they said good-bye and good riddance. In most democracies, the prevailing principle is that failure sends a politician home. As far as that goes, both men acted correctly. They had both failed at their jobs, they were both afflicted with arrogance and self-centeredness, and both left their supporters tasting the bitter brew of humiliation. It is rather problematic to suddenly bring up the idea of returning the pilot who has cracked up the plane to the cockpit. However shame was never the strong suit of either Barak or Netanyahu.

From any perspective, both Bibi and Barak should have continued in private life and quelled their aspiration to return to the prime minister's office. Statements from the terms of office of both these meteors reveal them as unconstrained politicos, focused on themselves and their own glory. Former Center Party MK David Magen called Bibi a "political accident." General (res.) Yossi Peled said Netanyahu "had no God." Bibi did in fact go against all norms of honesty, truth and values in politics. He sowed divisiveness and hatred among ethnic groups, he made a name for himself as a liar. When he was roundly defeated by Barak, it could be said, using Sharon's favorite expression, that this was one of the most justifiable of political defeats.

Barak, who was also afflicted with the me-myself-and-I syndrome, hurt all his supporters and followed his own judgment as if the wisdom of the world resided with him. Inside of a year and a half he had created an unparalleled camp of enemies within his own party. He did get us out of Lebanon, but his goal of unmasking Arafat eventually led us into the intifada. Barak was hated and disparaged and Sharon beat him by a spectacular majority.

Netanyahu and Barak, who are not exactly conjoined twins, do have twin flaws. Both are full of themselves and both are convinced that God has designated them to rule. The difference between them is in their tactics. Netanyahu was smart enough to return to the Likud in an office other than prime minister, first as foreign minister and then as a determined finance minister, successfully paving the way toward the prime minister's office.

Barak, who in "private life" ignored the Labor Party and its problems, announced in an interview with Shelly Yachimovich that he would return to Labor and remain there in any function, even if he was not elected to head the party. Barak is 62; Netanyahu is 55. Both see their age in their favor on the one hand - Shimon Peres is 81 and Sharon is 76 - and on the other hand there is a paucity of potential national leaders in both their parties.

Both Barak and Bibi declared they have learned the lesson of their failures. Both use the example of Yitzhak Rabin's transformation between his first and second terms in office. They forget the small detail that a span of 15 years separated Rabin's two terms as prime minister. But tricks and gimmicks are an inseparable part of their personalities. One may not like them, but there is no doubt they are both talented, sharp, intelligent, ambitious, strong enough to make difficult decisions and capable of internalizing the lessons of their failures.

Their fondest ambition may provide them with the ability to correct their behavior and change their patterns of action.

However the greatest defect of both is their character. "Character is fate" said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Intelligent people can change their behavior patterns but not their character. The comeback boys suffer from the same defect as the Sunshine Boys - their character deficiencies. But in the prevailing political desert in both their parties, we may get both of them. Bibi first and then Barak. Or who knows? Maybe both together.