columnIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Ehud Barak’s outlandish accusations

Rewriting history isn’t the former Israeli prime minister’s only specialty. Projection is another. But his latest assertions about Benjamin Netanyahu’s camp were more like slander and libel than mere hypocrisy.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at the Haaretz Democracy Conference in Jaffa, Nov. 9, 2021. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at the Haaretz Democracy Conference in Jaffa, Nov. 9, 2021. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

In an interview on Saturday night with Channel 12’s new version of its “Meet the Press” program—this one with hosts Amit Segal on the right and Ben Caspit on the left—former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak did the “anybody but Bibi” contingent proud. That he disgraced himself in the process didn’t seem to bother the has-been whose disastrous policies led to his humiliating defeat after less than two years (1999-2001) at the helm.

But then, Barak, whose well-deserved ouster was due to the 2000 Camp David Summit fiasco, has never suffered from a surplus of modesty or remorse. On the contrary, he continues to claim that he practically handed PLO chief Yasser Arafat Palestinian statehood on a silver platter in order to call the arch-terrorist’s bluff.

When Arafat not only rejected his generous offer, but used it as an excuse to launch the suicide-bombing war on innocent Israelis that lasted more than four years, Barak was among those who blamed his successor, Ariel Sharon, for it. Though the Palestinians had spent months plotting the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” and timing it to erupt across Israel on the eve of the Jewish high holidays, a visit by then-opposition leader Sharon to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Sept. 28, 2000 was deemed to have been the casus belli.

Rewriting history isn’t Barak’s only specialty, however. Projection is another, as was on full display during his appearance with Segal and Caspit.

Invoking an oft-misquoted line (falsely attributed to Edmund Burke) in John Stuart Mill’s 1867 inaugural address at the University of St. Andrews, Barak praised himself for warning against the perils that Israel faces if opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party garners enough seats in the Nov. 1 Knesset election to enable him to head the next government.

“Bad things happen when good people are silent,” he said smugly, while repeatedly referring to Netanyahu’s base and future coalition partners as a “cult of money, power and honor.”

This is pretty funny coming from an egotistical multi-millionaire with a taste for fancy watches and high-priced cigars, who lives in the lap of luxury in Tel Aviv, one of the world’s most expensive cities. The epithet is even more amusing when used to describe at least half of the country. As Barak clearly fails to grasp from his elitist perch, these are mostly average citizens with little “power and honor,” but lots of day-to-day financial and other struggles.

The main focus of his vitriol was Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose faction is now a member of Betzalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party. Ben-Gvir is the right-winger whom leftists love to hold up as a symbol of all that is “dangerous” and “fanatical.”

What they fail to recognize, however, is that their own radicalism, which includes equating police and IDF actions with those of violent Palestinians targeting soldiers and civilians, is responsible for much of his popularity. He represents a growing sector of Israelis fed up with the current government’s attempt to ease restrictions on the enemy, while making soldiers adhere to strict rules of engagement.

His renouncing of past beliefs and behavior—such as his having been a follower, in his youth, of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s outlawed Kach Party, and an admirer of American-Israeli doctor Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Arab worshipers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994—is dismissed by detractors as a ploy. The same critics have no problem, however, championing United Arab List (Ra’am) chairman Mansour Abbas for distancing himself from his party’s Muslim Brotherhood association.

Barak therefore had zero qualms about asserting that Ben-Gvir is actively trying to provoke terrorism to bolster his showing at the ballot box.

“He needs a mother and her four children to be murdered on the eve of the election to guarantee victory,” Barak had the gall to state. “[Ben-Gvir and Netanyahu] are not only waiting for that to happen; they’re helping it along.”

He went on, “The unholy alliance between Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir and the messianic racists is the true threat to the State of Israel,” adding that if they emerge victorious, “we’ll be entering a period of darkness.”

To drive this insane point home, he invoked Umberto Eco’s 14 features of fascism, averring that Netanyahu’s camp possesses at least 12. The list, which the late Italian historian compiled in a 1995 essay, better describes the Palestinian Authority and its apologists than any government under Netanyahu or Israeli society as a whole.

For the sake of brevity, it can be summarized as follows: 1. The cult of tradition; 2. The rejection of modernism; 3. The cult of action for action’s sake; 4. Disagreement is treason; 5. Fear of difference; 6. Appeal to social frustration; 7. The obsession with a plot; 8. The enemy is both strong and weak; 9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy; 10. Contempt for the weak (elitism); 11. Everybody is educated to become a hero; 12. Machismo and weaponry; 13. Selective populism; 14. Newspeak.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black—yet another activity at which Barak excels. In this case, though, it was more like slander and libel than mere hypocrisy.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ” 

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