Ehud Barak Takes Labor Over a Cliff into Political Irrevelance
by Charles Lemos, Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 08:05:18 PM EDT
Fresh off its worst electoral showing in its history garnering just 334,900 votes or 9.9% of the electorate, Israel's Labor Party Central Committee voted in favor of joining Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition. Labor Chairman and the current Defense Minister Ehud Barak drafted the deal with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
But half of the left-leaning party's lawmakers objected to teaming up with the Likud leader due to his long-standing opposition to peace efforts. Ehud Barak made his appeal to join the Netanyahu coalition invoking slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin. In an impassioned speech before the vote, Ehud Barak said "we are responsible for the Labor Party, but we also have a responsibility to the state of Israel, to peace, to security. We don't have a back-up country, Yitzhak Rabin said that, and it is still true."
"Labor voters want to see us in the government, they want to see us there because we don't have a spare country," Mr. Barak added. I'm not so sure. I tend to agree with Kadima's Yohanan Plesner who said that Labor had "signed its own death warrant."
"I am not afraid of Benjamin Netanyahu. I won't serve as a fig leaf to anyone, and I won't be anyone's dead weight. We will be the counter-force that will prevent the formation of a narrow right-wing government, and ensure the establishment of a real government that will take care of the Israeli people," Barak continued.
The Labor leader rejected claims that he was motivated by selfish interests, saying that his only priority is the welfare of the country. "I am not chasing after any position," he said, "and I've manned almost all the positions, I was prime minister, defense minister, chief of staff, GOC and commander of the elite forces unit Syeret Matkal. I don't need any more positions. Anyone who thinks that I am concerned with personal survival, I urge him to listen to the criticism hurled at us and understand the price one pays when going against the grain, against the trend, toward what is truly right for Israel."
Amir Oren, the noted Israeli writer, got it right the other day when he observed that "Barak and Netanyahu deserve each other. Barak is afraid of being left out. Netanyahu is scared to be left inside, alone."
So Bibi now has his unity government though it's not clear that all 13 Labor MKs will join the government. For the Israeli left, it seems that it is time to rebuild. I can only hope that Labor whip Eitan Cabel, one of the more vocal in opposition to Barak's move, prevails. He warned that the party was losing its way noting that "What killed us over the last decade is the fact that we lost faith in our path."
If we are not true to our roots, then we are nothing. Labor is a leftist party. It's one thing to join a national unity government but Netanyahu offers only the politics of destruction. Let him fail on his own.