Their Own Heirs

Uri Geller purports to use his mental powers to stop clocks, but even he does not presume to be able to turn back time. However, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, those two cosmic magicians, are doing just that.

Uri Geller purports to use his mental powers to stop clocks, but even he does not presume to be able to turn back time. However, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, those two cosmic magicians, are doing just that. Those who were failures in the past are now coming back with great fanfare, as if, in these parts, failure were no more than a prerequisite for a glorious return. You failed - you come back. That's the rule around here. And they're not searching for a successor; they're succeeding themselves.

Another thing that Barak and Netanyahu have in common: Both swear that they've changed; they're not the same people we once knew. And how are we to know that they've genuinely changed? Are we just to trust what they say? As in any courtroom trial, here, too, the jury - i.e., the public - must rely on a range of evidence, both eye-witness and circumstantial, and in this case it's having a hard time reaching a verdict: So far there has been no admission of fault or error. Both of these come-backers still refuse to put their dubious pasts in evidence. They've changed, they've changed, they keep saying, but yet they do not admit, even partially, to any mistakes or failures on their part.

There is no acknowledgment and no remorse: Netanyahu does not regret having taken the bread out of the mouths of hundreds of thousands of families and leaving them in misery. Barak does not regret having spoiled the negotiations with Syria and leaving Bashar Assad to be coddled by Iran, while Hassan Nasrallah is being pampered by Iran and Syria. Had Barak not gotten cold feet in the shallow waters of the eastern shores of Lake Kinneret, the second Lebanon war would not have erupted. Plenty of water has flowed down the Jordan since then - and plenty of blood has, too.

These two returning politicians are not offering anything new. Up to now, no alternatives to their previous social and diplomatic plans, which crashed and burned, have been placed before the public. We haven't seen or heard them bring out anything new. It's all just the same old, same old - not only the same people, but the same ideas. Even aging singers making a return to the stage always freshen their familiar repertoires with a few new songs, just to avoid seeming pathetic and pitiful.

There's no new song being heard here, no uplifting message, no dream. Barak told journalist Nahum Barnea: "We're living in an age of disillusionment; dreams are finished." Who needs leaders who aren't building the future on a dream, but rather on its demise? Without a beautiful dream, an ugly reality has no chance of changing, and the nightmare will continue.

Nor is there any circumstantial evidence to support the sort of forgiveness that would culminate in a glorious resurrection. The years that Barak and Netanyahu spent out in the (cozily warm) cold did not change their predilections or do anything to boost their credit: Neither weaned himself from his addiction to cushy trips abroad; both focused on enriching themselves and did not appear to evince much concern for Sderot or Kiryat Shmona in those cities' times of trouble. One observed the goings-on from his villa in Caesarea, the other from the heights of Tel Aviv's luxury Akirov Towers. The milieu remained the same crony-filled and hedonistic milieu, the confidants remained the same confidants, and various dubious characters did not find their way barred. Netanyahu rewrites history with virtuosic bluster, while Barak is busy polishing his biography: "Just look how he sits and listens, and lets others talk. You can see that he is taking things in."

Barak and Netanyahu are like worthless objects that were tossed out of the house and then picked up by an old junk collector and added to his cart. And now we're supposed to go to the flea market and buy them again because nothing better is to be found.

Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz take a hostile view of these comeback artists. Olmert is resentful and wary of Netanyahu, and Peretz feels the same way about Barak. This attitude is hard to understand: After all, Barak and Netanyahu are bequeathing them life after their political death. There's no threat here - what these two signify is promise: Olmert and Peretz, too, will surely return one day for, as the saying goes, "Don't change horses in midstream ..." - even if they are dead. But what a miserable, impoverished country this is, if these two are its only hope.