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Barak: "I am back"

11/04/2004

Former Israeli PM and Labor party leader Ehud Barak announced that he is returning to political life, following his retirement when he was decisively defeated by Ariel Sharon in 2001. Is it good or bad for the prospects for peace?

Announcing his return, Barak said:


"Israel is currently at an important juncture with disengagement, economy, and the rule of law. I predict national elections will be held sometime in May or June 2005, probably before disengagement. Because of this, Labor must get ready to be an opposition and an alternative to deal with Likud policies and lead the nation.

What Barak left unsaid is that in those elections, the leader of the Likud may very well be Benjamin Nethanyahu rather than Ariel Sharon. Barak's major political credit is that he was able to soundly trounce Benjamin Nethanyahu in the election of 1999, even though Nethanyahu was thought to be a much better speaker than Barak, and even though Nethanyahu had joined the list of people who had beaten Shimon Peres in May of 1996.

Barak announced that he would favor completion of the security barrier and implementation of a comprehensive disengagement plan, which would leave 80% of the settlers protected by the barrier, according to him. Barak was an architect of both the disengagement plan and the security barrier policies, later developed by his unsuccessful replacement Amram Mitzna, and coopted by Ariel Sharon.

Barak's major strength is that he is the only strong figure in the Labor party with the experience to be Prime Minister other than Shimon Peres, whose record is distinguished by the accomplishment of never being able to win a single election. Barak has a sterling army record in the elite IDF Sayeret Matkal commando and as Chief of Staff of the IDF, and is considered the ideological and political successor of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. According to a recent poll, no less than 56% of Labor voters favor the return of Barak. Barak's chief weaknesses, made obvious during and after his period in office, are an uncanny ability to alienate just about everyone, and a demonstrated inability to negotiate peace agreements either with the Palestinians or the Syrians, while at the same time leaving a trail of bitterness against Israeli policy.

In a now famous (or infamous) interview in The New York Review of Books in 2002, Barak justified his record and blamed the failure of the Camp David talks on the Palestininians. He contemplated the possibility of a return to political life. He noted that former PM Yitzhak Rabin had returned after 15 years. He could have noted that Ariel Sharon had also made a come back, and he probably had in mind the further examples of Charles De Gaulle and Winston Churchill. However, in the same interview, Barak made racist statements that are totally inappropriate for a candidate for public office in Israel, and which will make it difficult for him to face Israel's Arab voters. He said of Muslims:


They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie...creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as "the truth."

It remains to be seen how he can reconcile that statement with his characteristic mantra that he is "the Prime Minister of everrryone."

Yossi Beilin, leader of the Yahad party, complained that the Left cannot accept as their leader


"the man who in the past four years tried to convince the world that there is no partner on the Palestinians side."

Beilin missed two points. The first one is that Barak isn't aiming to be the leader of the left, but rather the leader of Israel. The second is that even if the world is not convinced that there is no partner on the Palestinian side, most Israelis are, and it is the Israelis, not the world, who will chose the next Prime Minister. Labor has little realistic chance of forming a new government, but Beilin's Yahad party has no chance at all, in part because of their efforts to convince Israelis that Yasser Arafat is a partner for peace. Those who want to have a fighting chance to unseat the Likud cannot dismiss Barak out of hand.

Ami Isseroff


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Replies: 4 comments

Ehud Barak has had his chance to be prime minister and apart from the withdrawal of the Israeli Army from Lebanon, his performance as prime minister has been lackluster.He has been unsuccessful in seeking a second term and lost the 2001 elections. His character goes against him and he was not able to work with his own colleagues because of his obstinacy and abrasiveness. If he is re-elected as party leader he will lead the Labor Party to another devastating defeat. It is doubtful whether he is such a strong figure in the Labor Party owing to the fact that there are many members who wish to put themselves forward as possible leaders of the party.Matan Vilnai, Ephraim Sneh, "Fuad" Ben Eliezer, Amir Peretz. - and even Chaim Ramon cannot be ruled out as a candidate. The only way the Labor Party can win is by electing a new, charismatic leader who has grass root support from the electorate and has shown leadership qualities in the socio-economic arena. Perhaps a better choice would be Amir Peretz which could bring the word "labor" back to the Labor Party including workers privileges and dignity. Naturally the potential leader's attitude towards peace with the Palestinians is also important.

Posted by Shimon Z. Klein @ 11/06/2004 11:35 AM CST

I want to know who wants all of this world peace. What about the freaking Anti-Christ?

Posted by Vanessa Saunders @ 11/12/2004 10:22 PM CST

I feel that Yasser Arafat tried his best to make Palestine a state just like Ariel Sharon worked hard to maintain Israel as a state. I feel that the media is portraying Arafat at a bias. I think it goes way back in to religion. I feel that the media is showing the OSLO peace process as a way to make others believe that the reason the Palestians are not a state is because Yasser Arafat didn't accept the peace. However the peace process requisted that Arafat give up Masjid Al-Aqsa which is the main reason he is fighting. I love Arafat he dedicated his life to his Nation. I hope he Rests in Peace.

Posted by hiba @ 11/19/2004 04:22 PM CST

I Personaly am of the Upinion That Ehud's Return to Politics is a GOOD Thing for Eretz Israel.

Why?...He is an Honest Man ,maybe not a verry Briljant Poletician (like Me in English gg)but its not the Briljant Poleticians That make Peace ,it is Those close to the People AND That is what He was and is.

Seconds...If You have SEEN and LIVED to so mush Violance and War as He did You KNOW What You are talking about and WHY You do it.
He Saw a lot off Things and Actions That will never be written in History Books at least not comming 50 Years.

This the more makes Him fit to make a SENCABLE Peace One That will last not only for now , or to make Europe and America Happy but One That will guarenty also the Peacefull survaivel of the Israeli People.

So I would like zto urge Ehud to go on on the Way He has Chosen to go ...its a Hard One but We live in hard Times the Idea That a Man as Bibi Would run Israel again gives Me the Shuders...What was it Yossi sayed about Him ..."When He (My Brother ever becommes PR I will emegrate to America....."

I Hope You Learned People will forgive a simple House Wife and Mother for Her Words but by the Thought of Peace I Think about my Childeren and not Your Fatt Economical Contrackts and Short Future Visions ...

To all Those "do Gooders and amature Peace Brookers" I would like to Say Come and Live Here for a while taste the Atmosphere Here and THEN gift Us with Youre Upinions, till Yet I din't saw mush Good Ones.
Karin

Posted by Karin Stavangersdattir @ 12/31/2004 08:34 PM CST


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