By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
The timing of Ehud Barak’s revelations is baffling about discussions, when he was minister of defense, whether or not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Nobody is surprised that such discussions took place. The option must still be high on someone’s agenda. But why the tapes of Barak’s musings to his biographers should be published now is open to speculation (as is the reason why the censors allowed them to be aired). Here’re some possibilities.
- The speculation that seems most intriguing is that this is an attempt by Barak – Israel’s most decorated soldier, former chief of staff, former prime minister and minister of defense – to return to politics. While he has been away from it he’s said to have made a lot of money and now may want to return to make history as the leader of Israel’s center-left. A columnist even suggested that on a tape not yet aired Barak is saying something to that effect.
Even those who may be disappointed in the softly-softly approach of the Herzog-Livni team of the Zionist Union may not be too enthusiastic. Barak wasn’t a brilliant prime minister (though he’s said to have been a good defense minister). His efforts to make peace with Arafat by giving him more than his due took us nowhere and there’s nothing to suggest that he’ll do better should he return to high office.
What Israel seems to need is new people with new ideas that could unite the nation in a way that the present government does not. However, we tend to forget that this isn’t the era of Ben Gurion and his contemporaries on the international scene. If Barak thinks that he could fill Ben Gurion’s shoes, he’ll soon find out that that’s not the case. The same newspaper columnist who discusses these speculations also warns his readers against bringing Barak back.
- Perhaps Barak doesn’t want to come back but he wants to embarrass Netanyahu. The two appeared together recently at the premiere of a film about Israel’s spectacular thwarting of a terrorist attack in May 1972 on a Belgian airliner when Barak was in charge of the commando unit and Netanyahu one of its members. Perhaps claiming superior knowledge as his commander he wants to tell the nation that the prime minister isn’t the man we’d like to think he is. This may be a way of claiming the right to replace him, but it could also be just peeve. Netanyahu bashing – and re-election! – has become popular in many quarters.
- There’s also the possibility that Barak has no intention to return to politics but he’d like his biography to be a best-seller and the tapes might help. Perhaps the two journalists arranged for the tapes to be aired because they’re peeved that while they were interviewing Barak he had negotiated with others an English biography. Israeli writers know that a Hebrew book will never make too many waves and had hoped for an English version of their work. To have someone else get that must be hurt them.
- Hence also this speculation: perhaps Barak’s interest isn’t the country but only Ehud Barak. Personal vanity, not national history, may have motivated him. He wouldn’t be the first public figure to succumb to it. The Psalmist knew all abut it when he warned us not to put our trust in princes but only in God (118:9). Faith in God may be difficult, but faith in human beings seems impossible.