Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Something’s wrong with this man

Latest Barak scandal to prompt more doubts about Barak’s character

Baruch Leshem

Ahead of the 1999 elections, Ehud Barak appeared on a television interview and said: “Had I been Palestinian, I would join a terror group and fight.” His words provoked an understandable media storm. The 1990s were among the toughest days of Palestinian terror and many Israelis were killed in terror attacks during that time Barak proceeded to convene several media experts at his office, including myself, in order to look into ways to responding to the criticism. The Labor Party leader failed to grasp what the commotion was all about. “All I wanted to say is that wherever I am, I would naturally be part of the fighting forces,” he explained.

Those present at the meeting traded embarrassed glances: Is this person truly so dense as to fail to see the difference between a dedicated soldier and a national politician? After all, many people could have interpreted his words as approval for terror acts, not to mention the emotional aspect involved in an Israeli saying he would join a group that indiscriminately kills civilians.

To be honest, alongside the negative aspect of this, we also saw a PR advantage in highlighting Barak’s character. It is certainly possible to market imperviousness as leadership.

The first impervious act undertaken by Barak after he was elected as the Labor Party’s leader was to change its name to “One Israel.” Barak’s people explained that this constitutes a minor plastic surgery that does not change the essence. Well, forget the name for a moment, as long as Barak promised to safeguard the Labor Party’s values. For example, continuation of the diplomatic process towards peace, which prompted Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.

Well, upon entering the government Barak did not even try to do it for appearance’s sake. The government’s basic lines had no commitment whatsoever to a diplomatic plan, and Barak did not present his own peace initiatives during government sessions. He was impervious to the demands voiced by Labor party ”rebels,” who urged him to stick to his party’s platform; subsequently, he started to lose the support of his ministers and colleagues.

The Israeli Bonaparte
The issue of hedonism was the latest straw. A former Mapai Knesset Member, Eliezer Livne, was kicked out of the party list because he purchased a villa in Jerusalem. The explanation given back then was that this contradicted the Labor party’s values as a workers’ party.

Meanwhile, Barak purchased a luxury apartment, his wife established a PR firm that was about to charge exorbitant sums from people associated with the defense minister, and now it turns out that the Israeli Bonaparte also slept at the same hotels as his French counterpart.

The hotel scandal indeed constitutes improper conduct, yet it’s not the type of thing that could decide the fate of a politician, as long as it is not followed by legal procedures. Yet what may very well undermine Barak’s image is the lethal link between his character and his political actions.

The common theme associated with all these acts paints a picture of a person impervious to his environment, also in respect to his decisions as Labor leader. He will change his party’s name if it will allow him to take power; he will change its platform in order to survive in power; he will also replace his party members if they object to his actions.

Likud election ads declared that “something’s wrong with this man” following Barak’s words in the interview mentioned at the top of this page. Now, Labor party voters are starting to say the same thing: Something’s wrong with this man.

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