It’s still early, but Bibi Netanyahu’s days as Prime Minister may soon be over. Netanyahu’s nemesis, Ehud Barak, has just announced that he is entering Israel’s current election campaign intending to defeat Netanyahu, who has dominated Israeli politics as long as most people can remember. At a Tel Aviv news conference.
Barak declared, “The time has come to topple Netanyahu, not to save him from criminal prosecution”! This Israeli Prime Minister is now facing three possible indictments for bribery and breach of trust. And Barak went on to say that this was Bibi’s last moment to leave office and retire. “Do not try and drag the state through chaos in order to save yourself.”
It has long been rumored that the 77-year-old Barak was contemplating a comeback in light of the surprise election on September 17th. Several decades ago, Barak served as Bibi’s commander in the vaunted Sayeret Matkal special forces. I believe it’s fair to say that during both of their political careers, Barak has always held a psychological whip-hand over Bibi, even when Bibi was his political boss as Prime Minister and Barak served under him as Defense Minister. Barak’s dramatic entrance into the election race comes at a critical crossroads. Israeli politics is in a state of chaos.
In an apparent attempt to forestall the legal charges against him, Netanyahu called an early election in April. But he outsmarted himself. He believed that he would win the recent election hands down, form a new government, and then declare that the people had reelected him knowing full and well about the criminal allegations. However, the ballot ended in a dead heat, and one of Bibi’s former political chums surprised the country by refusing to join Bibi’s right-wing coalition because Lieberman charged Netanyahu with selling out to the ultra-orthodox parties. But, never at a loss for political tricks, Bibi forced an unprecedented new election rather than let Benny Gantz of the Blue & White party try his luck at forming a new government.
“We are not blind, and understand that you are simply trying to derail the indictments against you. Netanyahu, you have reached the end of the road.”
But that’s not all. After recently seeing polls indicating that he would not win the next election, the Prime Minister has been trying to overrule the Knesset decision to hold another election in September. So much for Bibi’s shenanigans. Barak blasted the Prime Minister by declaring, “We are not blind, and understand that you are simply trying to derail the indictments against you. Netanyahu, you have reached the end of the road.” Barak went on to say that the PM’s closest advisors are aware of this, as are his palls at the Knesset and the Cabinet.
However, Netanyahu rules Likud with an iron fist, and his colleagues are both paralyzed and fearful. Then Barak referred to their army days together, some 50 years ago. “As your former commander, I tell you that you must not continue to try and steer the ship of state. For your own good, for the good of the country, and for all you have contributed throughout your life, your persistence in trying to hold on may wind up badly.” For his part, Barak promised to get Israel back on track by forming a new political framework with the goal of ending Netanyahu’s regime.
Of all the leaders in Israel, Ehud Barak is the most qualified to take on Netanyahu. But, Barak’s own image with many Israeli voters took a nosedive after he tried to reach a wide-ranging peace agreement with the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David 2000, hosted by then-President Bill Clinton. In his autobiography, “My country, my life,” Barak detailed how he pulled out every stop to finalize a peace accord with Arafat.
Low and behold, he offered far-reaching compromises that highlighted with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. This was the two-state solution some 19 years ago. The borders of this Palestinian state would involve Palestinian territorial compromises to maintain Israel’s security. But in return, Israel would compensate with territory in less critical security areas. And get this, Barak, in effect, agreed to the partition of Jerusalem, with the city also serving as the Palestinian capital.
Moreover, a limited number of Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to the Jewish state. But, Arafat (as testified by Clinton) refused even to reply to Barak’s offer. The Palestinian leader simply packed his bags and flew back to the West Bank to launch a second Intifada, which has, in effect, continued to this very day.
“Judaism is a religion, and practitioners of religions are not entitled to a state.”
What was the hitch? Arafat’s aids told US negotiator, Dennis Ross, that Barak’s proposal would have granted Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. And if the Palestinian leader would have done so, “Palestinians would have killed him when he returned home!” This stalemate has existed until this very day – even the moderate president Mahmud Abbas categorically denies the right of Jewish self-determination and their right to an independent state. Doctor Abbas, and other Palestinian academics such as doctor Saeed Erekat, contend that “Judaism is a religion, and practitioners of religions are not entitled to a state.” This should be born in mind by both the J Street crowd and the BDS anti-Semites.
In any case, Arafat’s refusal to accept the PM’s generous proposal put paid to Barak’s political career. He had offered everything, including the kitchen sink, but came home empty-handed to be hauled over the coals by Israel’s right-wing that accused him of selling out the country. And consider this – Barak’s own Labor party blamed him for astounding Arafat by offering too much at one go. Since then, the Labor party, that founded and developed the modern state of Israel, has never recovered.
Barak’s own Labor party blamed him for astounding Arafat by offering too much at one go. Since then, the Labor party, that founded and developed the modern state of Israel, has never recovered.
So what impact is Barak’s comeback likely to have on Israel’s fragmented political seam? Barak, who knows Bibi inside-out, is the only political rival who can take on Netanyahu, who wows the right-wing with his rhetoric.
And this just in: A snap poll after Barak’s announcement indicates that he is now a viable player in the election campaign. Barak’s party could take six seats in the September ballot. Moreover, the poll shows that the left-wing bloc could win 61 seats, the required majority in the 120-member Knesset if elections were held today. And Barak is just warming up. Overall, Netanyahu’s Likud party would slip to 32, the same as the Blue & White party led by Benny Gantz. Incidentally, Barak’s old Labor party would take a bare five seats – just over the four required to enter the Knesset. This would leave open the possibility for Barak teaming up with his old Labor palls. More bad news for Bibi – Avigdor Lieberman of the “Russian Immigrants’ party, has climbed to seven seats. Remember, it was Lieberman who barred Bibi from forming a new coalition government – the country is still reeling politically, and more surprises can be expected.