The big question in Israel right now is this: Will Ehud Barak join Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to form a government that can and will defend Israel from the apocalyptic ayatollahs in Iran?
Netanyahu has said from the beginning that he wants a broad, “unity” government rather than a narrow, partisan one. He believes that he made a mistake in 1996 not asking Labor Party leader Shimon Peres not to join his government. So now he’s going the extra mile to invite Labor’s current leader onto the team. Privately, he has offered Barak the opportunity to stay on as Defense Minister, and has offered key positions to other members of Labor.
Personally, I hope Barak says yes. I met him once at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and I like him. He was not an effective Prime Minister. In 2000, he made a serious error of judgment. He gave away southern Lebanon for nothing. In 2006, Israel paid for that error, receiving 4,000 rockets and missiles from Hezbollah as a “thank you” present. Political leadership has not been Barak’s strong suit. Still, he was an amazing general — one of the most decorated in Israel’s modern history. He helped rebuild the IDF after the 2006 debacle (which he was not in government for) and led a brilliant campaign into Gaza in January (which PM Olmert ended too quickly). Most importantly, Barak understands the Islamic revolution. He understands the existential threat Israel faces now from the ayatollahs in Iran who are feverishly trying to acquire or build nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Bibi could really use him at his side.
The challenge: the Labor Party’s rank and file membership — as well as some of its top officials — can’t stand Netanyahu. The party is filled will “ABBs” — people who want “Anybody But Bibi” to lead Israel. So it’s not clear by any means that Barak can persuade Labor to accept Netanyahu’s generous offer. What has become clear in the last 24 hours that Barak wants to accept Bibi’s offer. To his credit, I believe he sees it as his patriotic duty, not a matter of partisan politics. He knows the future of his country is on the line, and like the good soldier he has always been, Barak wants to suit up and help.
Please pray faithfully for Messrs. Netanyahu, Barak and their advisors. Pray for wisdom. Pray for unity. Pray for clear vision and courage to do the right thing. The deadline to submit the final coalition is Sunday at 3pm local time. Netanyahu could ask for a two week extension, but he has indicated he does not want to. Let’s pray he can finalize a broad, stable, “unity” government quickly and get on with the urgent business of governing right away. Time is short and the stakes are high.
HEADLINES TO TRACK:
- New York Times/Intl Herald Tribune says Israel increasingly isolated internationally due to emergence of Netanyahu govt
- Ynet News: Barak: Nation wants us to join government; Defense minister says most citizens, party voters interested in seeing Labor entering coalition
- Ynet News: Barak chooses Bibi; Labor party chairman knows he can either join Netanyahu’s coalition or go home
- Jerusalem Post: The Cabal of the Commandos — “Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu joined forces on May 8, 1972, when both were commandos in Sayeret Matkal, the elite General Staff Reconnaissance unit, to free the passengers of hijacked Sabena Flight 572. Barak led 16 commandos in the successful operation at Lod Airport, among them Netanyahu, who was accidentally shot by one of the rescue team members during the operation. But Netanyahu and Barak have never joined forces politically.”