The Old Barak and the New

Ehud Barak is going to Annapolis not to save the conference, but to bury it.

Calls to scrap the Annapolis conference before it is even convened are complete nonsense, not least because they are odd and belated, like trying to roll a half-cooked omelette back into an eggshell. You might as well call a spaceship back to the launchpad after the countdown and liftoff.

The closer we get to Annapolis, the more anorexic it looks. It is already possible to say the core issues are suffering from severe internal injuries. Perhaps in the future it will be necessary to enact minimum-weight legislation stipulating that a peace conference will not be launched if it looks like a pile of bones to begin with.

But now, at the last moment, the conference must not be cut off from the life-support machines, because its premature death will spell even more death. As long as a chance is still convulsing, nobody is authorized to annihilate it.

Not even Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He is going to Annapolis not to save the conference, but to bury it. Once invited, he could not refuse lest his malicious intentions be exposed. Staying at home means observing from afar how Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stumbles exactly where Barak himself once did. That would be the ultimate proof that at Camp David seven years ago there was no way to succeed. The Palestinians are to blame for everything. Oh, why don't we have the Norwegians as neighbors?

Barak was ridiculed when he declared that he was a new man when he returned to politics, that he had learned his lesson, is correcting his mistakes and has changed so much that no one would recognize him. Now is the time to admit that Barak was right and all his revilers were wrong. He has consciously given up the Labor chairman's traditional role of leading the "peace camp." Since he joined the cabinet he has swerved sharply to the right, smashing the moderates' stone tablets. He has become one of those who say "peace, peace, but there is no peace." (Jeremiah 8:11).

You don't need to be a leftist to understand that both Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert have deliberately used the settlements as a roadblock on the way to any future arrangement. The whole world, even most Israelis, know this by now. But the new Barak went further when he said at the cabinet session this week that "it is impossible to stop the construction in the settlements," as Yedioth Ahronoth reported. He also said, "I have respect and admiration for the settlers in the territories, and we cannot strangle them in settlement blocs. I also admire the settlers in the illegal outposts; there, too, we will have to provide for their everyday needs."

How preposterous Barak's support of the High Court of Justice suddenly sounds. How can you strengthen the justices in Jerusalem while in the same breath support serial lawbreakers in the West Bank no-man's-land?

No less ludicrous is the expectation of MKs Ophir Pines-Paz and Eitan Cabel that Labor will quit the coalition after the release of the complete Winograd report. Who do they think will quit, and for what exactly? Would Labor quit due to Olmert's criminal recklessness of July 2006? That immediately calls to mind two reckless operations in Lebanon, Accountability and Grapes of Wrath, - which Barak orchestrated and were no less baseless than the Second Lebanon War. And if they quit to protest corruption, it would immediately conjure up the image of Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Barak's strong right arm, who was involved in all the illicit political appointments, as the comptroller's report revealed this week, yet again.

Is it worth quitting just to grab MK Avigdor Lieberman's black square on the political chessboard? If Labor has decided to play musical chairs, why has its leader, who is known as a gifted amateur pianist, chosen such bad music?

On second thought, perhaps there is no difference between the old and new Barak, we just didn't want to admit it.