Photos: Gil Yohanan, Yaron Brener
'Olmert and Barak are two sides of a triangle. The third side is Netanyahu'
Photos: Gil Yohanan, Yaron Brener
Nahum Barnea

Olmert, Barak and Netanyahu: Israel's inglourious basterds

Op-ed: Through their actions and the example they set for others, two former and one current prime minister share a large part of the blame for the Israeli public's lack of trust in the political system.

A breach in the wall imposed by the court on the exposure of some of Shula Zaken's recordings allowed Channel 10 to air a conversation in which former prime minister Ehud Olmert makes harsh accusations against former prime minister Ehud Barak.



The Channel 10 journalists deserve a friendly punch on the shoulder for their scoop, but the new revelation only added to the feeling of discomfort since the celebration of these tapes began.


A man gossips with his former secretary about a political rival. He doesn't base his comments on facts; he has no idea that he is being documented, and that his comments will become common property.


So far, while the rumors about the reasons for Barak's swift moneymaking were only rumors, no one thought of seriously demanding an investigation. Barak lived his life comfortably alongside the rumors, and the rumors lived comfortably alongside Barak. They said he had taken a bribe, they said he had Alzheimer's disease. So what if they said?


But now there is a tape, so people are expecting the police to launch an investigation. The burden of proof lies on Barak: He has to prove that the accusations are untrue.


There is something unfair in this outcome. Not because of Barak: He served in the state's top positions and left behind a number of unsolved questions. If he is sentenced to open the books, he should open them. But just think about the norm: Two people, a boss and a secretary, fighting each other in court, and the third person, who is not part of the dispute, is hit with a barrage of poisonous sludge.


Think about the difference between a rumor and a fact, between gossip and evidence, between what a person whispers to his confidant and what he can stand behind publicly. In the past, a high wall separated between this and that. Now, the wall has disappeared and everything is breached.


In the German film "The Lives of Others," a Stasi agent records a writer's intimate conversations with his wife and friends. The invasion of privacy is shocking, as is the cynical, malicious use of the products of the recording. That was the situation in Germany 25 years ago. In Israel of 2014 there is no need for a secret police: We live the lives of others at the touch of a button.


Olmert and Barak are two sides of a triangle. The third side is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In 14 of the past 18 years, one of these three men served as Israel's prime minister.


Netanyahu and Olmert. 'In today's Israel, only ambitious, uninhibited, self-centered politicians can reach the top' (Photo: AP)
Netanyahu and Olmert. 'In today's Israel, only ambitious, uninhibited, self-centered politicians can reach the top' (Photo: AP)


They are all members of the same generation: Barak is the oldest and Netanyahu is the youngest; they are all very talented, perceptive, eloquent; they are all patriots, each in his own way; they are all pragmatic politicians, free of a binding ideology; they have all helped each other and humiliated each other, each in his own time; they have all developed a career in the world of business alongside their work at the state's service; they are all hedonists. Their hedonism doesn’t amount to the cigars they smoke, the cars they choose or the apartments they buy – it's a trait.


A deeper look will reveal how different they are, but such a look requires writing a book, not a short newspaper column.


What should trouble us right now is the damage the three of them have caused to the ethical power which accompanies the position of prime minister, the respect we should have for the political system, the trust democracy is built on. If Israeli voters stay away from the polling stations, if they are estranged, suspicious and cynical, these three men share a large part of the blame, both in their actions and in the example they set for others.


It's possible that in Israel of today, a prime minister can only develop on this winding road. Only ambitious, uninhibited, self-centered politicians can reach the top.


Quentin Tarantino named his film "Inglourious Basterds," and that's the first qualification needed. It's a destructive recipe. For the sake of inglorious bastards, Israelis will find it difficult to risk their lives in a battle, will find it difficult to pay their taxes honestly, will find it difficult to fight for a social and political agenda.


Last week, when Israel marked 19 years since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, politicians spoke a lot about democracy. They preached and preached, but avoided looking in the mirror. If there is anything positive in the recordings produced by Shula Zaken it is the power of the tapes forcing us all to look in the mirror.


פרסום ראשון: 11.11.14, 08:22
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