Ehud Olmert did the expected and resigned as Israeli prime minister yesterday. This makes him an interim prime minister until Tzipi Livni, the new head of the Kadima Party, can form a ruling coalition. So far so good. But this is where the strangeness begins.
Israeli politicians are not content merely to conduct some of the weirdest political horsetrading of any western democracy I know. Pols like Labor’s Ehud Barak really wants to get strange. He’s the junior coalition partner in the current government. He’s a thoroughly unpopular leader both in Israel at large and in Labor as well. Yet that doesn’t stop him from trying to work the angles:
Kadima has expected her to become prime minister by forming a new government from the existing components, the largest of which, after Kadima, is Labor. But Ehud Barak, the defense minister and head of Labor, has numerous reservations about the plan.
…Mr. Barak’s hesitation — made clear over the weekend when he declined an early meeting request from Ms. Livni and met first with the Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu — may be as much tactical as substantive. And while he did meet her on Sunday night, it may also be personal.
Mr. Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israel, is believed to chafe at taking orders from Ms. Livni, a lawyer who entered politics nine years ago with no national security experience other than the required military service and two years in a low-level Mossad espionage job in Paris.
Mr. Barak’s associates and key Labor Party activists say, however, that his concerns are as much about the future of the country and his party as about himself.
“This is not a game,” a close associate of his said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “We are at a point in Israel’s history where major decisions have to be made. Barak thinks Livni is not ripe. She could be a good foreign minister or justice minister, but to be prime minister takes more.”
Barak leads a thoroughly unpopular party (among numerous ones in the Knesset). Livni leads the largest party. Yet somehow Barak’s sense of entitlement tells him that he should decide whether or not Tzipi Livni deserves to be p.m. The sheer gall of it!
And what a chutzpan for his “close associate” to claim “it’s not a game.” It’s not a game to Barak because it’s all about him, his future, his standing, his ego. There is nothing about the country or its needs in his considerations. If anyone tells you different don’t believe a word of it.
And if you detected a strong odor of sexism in these comments, boy (no irony intended) you should. Imagine a guy who dressed as a woman to gun down an unarmed PLO leader doesn’t want to take orders from a woman. Too bad! I feel so bad for the guy.
The most shocking and twisted idea coming out of this article attributed to Barak is this:
But some officials say that Mr. Barak and Mr. Netanyahu met over the weekend to agree on an early date for elections.
Barak couldn’t get elected dog catcher. And he wants early elections?? Is the guy a total imbecile? The only other thing I can think of is that they’re hatching some sort of plan that would create a unity government of Likud and Labor with Netanyahu and Barak divvying up the spoils. A more cynical, disgusting thought about an Israeli politician hasn’t crossed my mind in some time.
The ONLY thing for Barak to do if he is sensible is to hitch his wagon to Livni and hope her government lasts as long as it can. There is no possible way Barak can win an election. Not now. Not ever. For him to think otherwise indicates he’s living in an alternate political universe.