Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ran HaCohen: Beware of Barak

Finally, a relatively widely circulated piece by an Israeli writing about the most ruthless Israeli politician on the scene -- and that's saying a lot. To me Barak doesn't come off looking smart or well spoken in English, but he's brilliantly hid his fanatical hatred of Arabs and Palestinians, maybe by simply choosing to be a member of Labor rather than Likud. I recall him bragging that unlike Netanyahu, he didn't give the Palestinians an inch -- literally. And now, relatively quietly, as Defense Minister, where for the moment he's perfectly placed to do the most harm, he's putting the screws to the Palestinians like never before.

December 27, 2007
Beware of Barak
by Ran HaCohen

Israeli "Defense" Minister Ehud Barak is definitely the most dangerous
politician in the Middle East. Ahmadinejad can only dream of having the
powers – political and military, conventional and non-conventional – that
Barak already possesses. Netanyahu and other far-right Israeli politicians
say what they think and are earmarked as extremists, so they are under
permanent scrutiny. Barak is more extreme than Netanyahu, but he's an
extremist in disguise.

The person who destroyed the Oslo Process and initiated the second
Intifada, the person who demolished the Israeli peace camp from within, by
spreading legends about a "generous offer" rejected by the Palestinian, by
persuading the Israelis that he "unmasked" Arafat and that there was no
Palestinian partner – this person still calls himself "the leader of the
Israeli peace camp." That's one of Barak's most dangerous traits: his
inherent untruthfulness, his presenting himself as the very opposite of
what he actually is.

Barak hasn't changed. As Yedioth Ahronoth announced just a few months ago
("Labor Leader More Right-Wing Than Netanyahu," Aug. 10, 2007), Barak
described the renewal of the peace talks as "a fantasy," said "there is no
difference between Hamas and Fatah"; promised "I will not remove
roadblocks in the West Bank"; and repeated his old mantra, "there is no
chance for a settlement with the Palestinians."

Indeed, Barak opposed the Annapolis Summit all along. His opposition
turned into reserved support just a few weeks before, when it became clear
the meeting would be nothing but a photo-op. On top of it, to make sure
nothing comes out of the newly launched process, Barak repeatedly calls to
resume peace negotiations with Syria, simultaneously with the Palestinian
track. A characteristic Barakian trick: urging to resume peace talks with
Syria enables Barak to boost his false reputation as a man of peace even
as he knowingly works to sabotage any prospect of peace. In an official
report written under then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000, recently
obtained and published in Hebrew by Ha'aretz (Dec. 13, 2007), Barak's
bureau chief wrote that resuming negotiations with Syria had led to
extreme distrust and stiffening on the Palestinian side, and, on top of
it, that the Israeli team had been unable to manage negotiations on both
fronts simultaneously. In other words, resuming negotiations with Syria is
a tested measure to make sure the Palestinian track doesn't work, and
Barak is playing this dirty card for the second time.

Barak promised to quit the coalition with Olmert after the publication of
the Winograd Commission final report, which is likely to blame Olmert for
the failed war in Lebanon in summer 2006. He has now hinted, through his
"aides," that he won't keep his promise (Barak never speaks to the media;
he sends his "aides" to hint at his intentions, so that no one can hold
him responsible for anything he actually says). It is quite likely that
Barak's perverse logic leads him to plan his return to the prime
minister's office by way of a "small" war. Once Olmert is officially
discredited for the failed Lebanon war, Barak as defense minister can hope
to take all the credit for a new, successful war – a big operation in Gaza
("drawing nearer all the time," as Barak tirelessly repeats), a war on
Syria, a strike on Iran, or a combination of all these. Such a war would
also be an excellent pretext to break his promise to exit the coalition:
after all, it would be "irresponsible" to quit when a war is imminent.

Barak knows all too well how to get Israel into a war, even behind the
government's back if needed: after all, it was young Maj. Gen. Barak who
in the early 1980s recommended to his superiors in the army to use
deception in order to allure the Israeli government and public into a war
in Lebanon.

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