On behalf of all of the sane people, who understand the issues, and who have a right to vote in the next Israeli elections, I would like to take it upon myself to make this simple request of Ehud Barak: Just go away already, will ya! I mean seriously now, you are 77 years old and have not been in government since 2013. And that’s not all.
After winning in a landslide against Binyamin Netanyahu, you had the shortest tenure of any Prime Minister in the country’s history. It was even shorter than that of Ehud Olmert (no relation – said for dumb people’s sakes), who somehow managed to stretch out what is widely agreed to have been the worst, most inept and corrupt government in Israel’s history to three years. Barak’s tenure lasted for exactly one year and eight months when counted from the day he took office. This was less than the 22 months of Moshe Sharret -1954 to 1956. The tenure only began after he took weeks to form a government, while his arch nemesis, Binyamin Netanyahu, continued to serve as Prime Minister.
Somehow, after his landslide victory, in which he claimed 55% of the vote, and after all the singing and dancing held once the election results were revealed to the public, it was not so easy for him to form a coalition – something still needed during the direct election era. And then, for some inexplicable reason, after only about a year and a half in office, he decided to call for a special bi-election just for the premiership. This election was held without new general elections for the Knesset. That was another quirk in the direct elections law, which, thankfully, was thrown out after the special election in 2001.
So what happened? Well first, after repeatedly promising to end the Yeshiva deferments for the Haredim, after saying time and again that there would be a draft “for all” with crowds chanting along with his emphasis on the Hebrew word for “all” which he pronounced “Kooo-Lahhmm,” Dear Ehud reneged and relented and brought the Haredim into his government anyway. Instead of a draft for all, which Israel’s Supreme Court required when it ruled that the deferments must end because they were only a “policy” and not enshrined in law, Prime Minister Barak formed a commission to look into the problem. This commission, of course, recommended passage of a new law, which did then enshrine the deferments. Why was this OK? Because it was done so that the left could run the government and continue to promote the peace process because that was all that really mattered anyway.
Of course that is the case. Democracy be damned like when Yitzhak Rabin bought the votes of several members from a right wing party to keep his government alive and avoid new elections. He not only gave them a variety of goodies, from a cabinet post for one and a car with a driver for another, Rabin also had the Israeli Elections laws changed so that a group of people could join a government against their party’s wishes if they constituted a third of their party’s Knesset membership. Why a third, you ask? Because there were three people who he bought from a party which had eight seats.
Rabin took this action, mind you, after his own party and the left as a whole pushed through reforms to prohibit any member of a party from leaving it in exchange for enticements from the ruling coalition. But, hey, this was all for the peace process so no bigy, right. The point is my friends that here we have yet another example, as with Ehud Barak’s tenure as prime minister and his run for office again today, of an Israeli politician – especially one who had been a general in the army – placing his hubris above all. Party be damned, loyalties be damned, promises be damned, and even laws be damned, “I am right so there,” is the narcissistic attitude Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon – all former generals –shared. Also former generals such as Moshe Dayan, Shaul Mofaz, Rafi Eitan and Yitzhak Mordechai, while not prime ministers just defense ministers, behaved in much the same way.
Then there is the new Blue and White Party, formed before the last elections, which managed to win 35 seats. It was established by former IDF chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Gabby Ashkenazi. They were later joined by another former chief of staff and their one time commander Moshe Yaalon. Wow a party with three former IDF chiefs of staff at the top and with a name like Blue and White which says absolutely nothing about the party’s politics. This is obviously not just about the conceit of these three men.
There is a precedent for what Barak is doing. In 1965, after he was forced out as prime minister and party leader for the second time by the Labor Party, David Ben-Gurion formed a new party and ran again for the Knesset at the youthful age of 79.
Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert are also guilty of this.
Back to the 2001 special elections. When they arrived, Israeli Arabs were furious with Ehud Barak for breaking his promises to them and not including any in his government. Many on the left who had supported the Oslo Accords and both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, were angry too. This was because Barak had agreed to dismantle their settlements in the Jordan River Valley as part of a final agreement. No these were not right wing religious fanatics whose settlements were built by Yitzhak Shamir or Ariel Sharon. They were lifelong Laborites who went to live in cooperative agricultural settlements, which were established under the Labor governments of Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin in the first half of the 1970s.
And then there were average Israelis who were aghast at what they saw happen at Camp David in the fall of 1999: Ehud Barak seemed to play around joyfully with Yasser Arafat – each one insisting that the other go through a door first – with President Clinton laughing from the side. I think that this may have been when someone came up with WTF. I think the whole world thought it was inappropriate. Then, after refusing the deal, Arafat unleashed a wave of terrorism on Israel, which was somehow blamed on Ariel Sharon because he went onto the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israelis just weren’t buying this crap anymore and blamed Ehud for not doing more against it.
So when it came to 2001, the Arabs stayed home, former left wing supporters either stayed home or voted for Sharon, and in the End Ariel Sharon won the bi-election with an overwhelming 62.5% of the vote. Imagine that happening in an American Presidential election. (It came close for Reagan, Nixon and LBJ who all got about 60% of the popular vote but that was in elections for a second term and yes, I know that LBJ was only actually elected once, but he ran as an incumbent so there!)
After the results came in, Ehud Barak announced his immediate retirement from politics. Of course he did, so he could make money in business, which a member of the Knesset is not permitted to do. Why sit in the opposition when you can be making lots of money. But then Ariel Sharon did a strange thing and formed a unity government with the Labor Party, Made Shimon Peres his foreign Minister and asked Ehud Barak to be his Defense Minister. Barak accepted. Only the members of his own party, who despised and resented him for running it like a dictator, reminded Ehud that he already promised to quit politics. It was too late for him to stay on.
So what happened after 2003, after they did away with the direct election of the PM, you ask. Wow what a great question. I’ll tell you. The Labor Party was humiliated in the election of 2003 falling to just 19 seats. To put this into perspective, in 1992, under Yitzhak Rabin, Labor won 44 seats in the Knesset. That’s more than a third of the seats. As a party, it had never dipped below 40 seats and, when the “Labor Alignment” formed out of the old Labor parties at the end of the 1960s, the new party won more than 50 seats two elections in a row. In 2003, Likud under Ariel Sharon doubled Labor’s total with 38 seats.
In 2006 under a new leader, Amir Peretz, Labor won only 19 seats again. The now defunct Kadima Party, under Ehud Olmert, won 29. Ehud Barak then made his comeback after the horrible war in Lebanon that summer and a year later again became the Labor Party leader. He took over the position of Minister of Defense from Amir Peretz in spite of not being a member of the Knesset. He held that position until the elections of 2013.
As you guessed, Barak succeeded in completely rebuilding the Labor Party and restoring it to its former glory – right? Wrong! In the elections of 2009, with Barak as its leader, Labor fell to a then all-time low of 13 seats, losing six seats from its previous total. Binyamin Netanyahu became the Prime Minister again. He brought the Labor Party into his coalition and let Barak continue to be the minister of defense. But this only served to anger the Labor Party leadership again, as it was clear that Ehud Barak only really cared about himself. Two years later he was ousted for the second time as party leader. Then, instead of honoring his party’s wishes and resigning from Netanyahu’s government, he stayed on as Defense Minister while the other Laborites quit.
Oh Ehud. How could you? So of course, he then announced the formation of a new party just to get himself elected again to the Knesset and stick it to the Labor Party for ousting him. But then it was clear that no one wanted him so Barak decided not to run. Binyamin Netanyahu at one point offered his old buddy Barak a seat on the Likud list, but he could not promise dear Ehud the Defense Ministry in a new government and there was serious opposition within the Likud to this move. So poor Ehud went into political obscurity six years ago.
And of course now Israel desperately needs him back. Why? Because Netanyahu is a terrible person, that’s why! The same Netanyahu who he worked so closely with just a few years ago. This is also why he called his new party the Israel Democratic Party – because Barak cares so much about democracy. His ads promise a new constitution for Israel within two years. What? So a party that would be lucky to even get the minimum number of votes just to get into the Knesset is somehow going to force the next government to adopt a whole new constitution in just two years.
Let’s not forget Barak’s track record when it comes to campaign promises.
But seeing the writing on the wall Barak went around the country like a beggar looking to combine his miniscule strength with other parties and form a united front, a joint list. He even went so far as to say that he did not need to be the leader of any such list. Wow what an altruist. Like he wasn’t just desperate to get elected and behaving like the needy kid in want of a last minute prom date, lest he be forced to just stay home that night, even if it means taking his cousin to the dance.
Well his good friend Amir Peretz, his former successor and predecessor as Labor Party leader and now for some reason once again successor, just did not want him. Boy, the way these parties keep on recycling their old, failed, and used up leaders is kind of like how Hollywood keeps on recycling the same dumb scripts and makes them into movies again with a different cast. Only here it is as if they are remaking the worst of the Adam Sandler/Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn/Gwyneth Paltrow/Jennifer Aniston/ (place generic movie star here) movies of the past with the exact same cast, only 20 years older.
Finally, dear Ehud found someone to take him in. It was announced that the Meretz Party leader agreed to form a new “democratic” united list to be called “the Democratic Camp.” These names for Israeli parties remind me of back when American football and baseball teams used to dub themselves “America’s team” for no real reason.
However, the Meretz leader is not that dumb. He only promised Ehud Barak the number 10 spot on the new list and there is really no chance of their getting that many seats in the new elections. But he did promise to get Barak a good cabinet post if they are part of the next coalition. If you are as worried as I about this prospect, don’t be. If Netanyahu/Likud do not form and lead the next government the only other possibility would be a broad coalition with both Likud and Blue and White and Meretz will surely not be invited to the table. Meretz probably just thinks it is a good idea to try and get as many of the people who might have voted for Barak on their side as possible.
Barak, Gantz, Ashkenazi, Yaalon, are all generals who tell us all that they know best how to run an economy, a foreign policy, any kind of social policy, etc. etc. Hmm, maybe it’s just me but I kind of think the narcissistic nature of the men in question which led them to become generals in the first place is what also pushes their need to continue to be the guy in charge. What do you think?
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