Ehud Barak
Photo: Ofer Amram

Ehud Barak: A Reality Check

Barak lacks strategic perspective, grasp of issues needed by defense minister

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein


If there was even a trace of sanity, an iota of decency, a remnant of rationality in the Israeli polity, Ehud Barak's current attempt to return as a central figure in the nation's political leadership will fail.


It is difficult to conceive of anything more bewildering – or galling - than the major argument Barak is advancing to justify his comeback i.e. his expertise in issues of national security. For lest anyone forget: Barak was defense minister in the not so distant past – and performed miserably in that capacity. In fact, it was precisely Barak's failures in matters of national security that led to his crushing defeat at the polls.


Moreover, the roots of Israel's most burdensome security problems today can be traced directly to Barak's term as defense minister. Yet Barak is now claiming that he, and only he, has the necessary – indeed superior - capabilities to contend with the very debacle the he himself created


The defining hallmarks of Barak's administration were (a) the IDF's unilateral flight from South Lebanon that begot "The Second Lebanon War"; and (b) the outbreak of Palestinian violence that has been dubbed "The Second Intifada" and whose consequences Israeli citizens are still suffering over half a decade later. Barak was clearly neither competent enough to correctly assess the consequences of the former; nor capable enough to contain or curtail the latter.


Of course no one can deny Barak's impressive record in the conduct of "Special Operations." Here his successes speak for themselves. But so do his failures in other areas of national security that require a more systemic approach, a more strategic perspective and more comprehensive grasp of the issues, over and above the capacity for short-term deception of the enemy and personal valor in combat.


The Katyusha rockets in the North and Qassems in the south bear eloquent – and damning - testimony to his poor judgment and lack of acumen in these broader areas of security affairs. One can only shudder to imagine the dire consequences that would have come about had his "courageous" proposals been accepted at Camp David; had Israel transferred to the Palestinians' total control the mountainous regions of Samaria and Judea that control the entire coastal plain with its major cities, strategic installations and infrastructures and major transport axes.


One can only shudder to contemplate the grave ramifications if "the fate of Sderot would be the fate of the greater Tel Aviv area." And then there's the fate of Ben Gurion International Airport, the fate of the trans-Israel highway, fate of the cities of Raanana and Kfar Saba….


Incorrect assessment of Saddam's intentions 

Moreover, even Barak's term as a general in the IDF raises serious doubts as to his strategic capabilities. Informed sources report on how in 1990, as deputy chief-of- staff he made totally incorrect assessments of Saddam Hussein's offensive intentions only a few months prior to his invasion of Kuwait. It was also Barak who led the opposition to the development to Israel's submarine arm – claiming it was unnecessary for contending with the future threats facing the country.


Yet today, the IDF underwater potential is a central (perhaps the central) element in creating Israel's "second strike" capacity as a deterrent vis-à-vis the Iranian threat. So it would seem that to be a successful strategist requires more than proficiency in use of disguise and a silencer


In addition, Barak's conduct since leaving his post of PM also reflects the profound arrogance (some might say, impudence) in his present endeavor to return to a senior government post – particularly that of defense minister and prime minister. After all, he has not presented the public with a single hint of how he plans to deal with Israel's present security predicament – beyond the demand that, as he is Ehud Barak, it is only proper that he should be given a second chance to prove that he can be successful in a post in which he previously failed so unequivocally.


For in contrast to Netanyahu, who since being removed as prime minister served as brilliant foreign minister and a highly successful finance minister (at least according to nearly all professional pundits – even those hostile to his political positions,) Barak has done nothing to prove that he has enhanced his abilities in public service, nor has he invested any efforts in this sphere since his electoral defeat.


There can be little doubt that Ehud Barak is worthy of great esteem for his contribution to the nation's security as a courageous commando, and an astute architect of numerous covert and overt operations behind enemy lines. But this does little to qualify him for the post of Israel's defense or prime minister. For these posts he has already proved himself eminently unsuited.


Martin Sherman is a political scientist at Tel Aviv University


פרסום ראשון: 05.27.07, 10:45
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