If the lower echelons of an army do not follow the orders of
the commander, it is not only their dereliction. It is
clearly a failure of the commander to lead effectively. If
the result of their dereliction is a big blunder, it clearly
reflects on the man at the top.
If the boss gives orders, and when he delegates authority to
trusted subordinates, their success and failure is rightly
credited -- at least in part -- to the man at the top.
Ehud Barak may not have seen any evil, may not have heard any
evil and may not have known of any evil taking place during
his election campaign. However that is immaterial to the main
issue: as the candidate and the sole head of the campaign he
is clearly responsible for the actions of his senior
If proven true, Barak's claims that he did not know may
mitigate the consequences to him of his responsibility for
the "illegal campaign contributions, keeping false corporate
records, fraud and breach of faith, and grand larceny under
aggravated circumstances," in the words of the Attorney
General. But they can certainly not absolve him of all the
In his first reaction, Barak did nothing to distance himself
from his trusted advisors. Even if they resign soon under
pressure, this initial response of refusal to admit that they
acted illegally will also be a black mark on Barak's
credibility, and make it clear that Barak has not brought a
new spirit of openness and honesty, but rather more of the
worst kind of the old way of doing things.
The steps taken by senior One Israel campaign officials to
disguise their involvement by using straw companies and
various nonprofit organizations makes it clear to anyone
reading the comptroller's findings that they knew themselves
that their actions were illegal. Why else set up straw
companies to funnel money?
Though five parties are being investigated for campaign
financing violations, it is clear that the actions of One
Israel were different in both quantity and quality. It was
only in Barak's campaign that senior party strategists
arranged for the money and directed how it would be spent. In
the case of the other parties, the violations amounted to a
failure to report the activities of genuinely independent
organizations as the effective donations that they were. It
is a clear violation of the law, but not one that shows such
contempt for the rule of law from people who occupy senior
positions in the current government.
It is clear that these revelations and accusations will
hobble Barak and may make it impossible for him to achieve
any significant agreement with Syria. Even before this, his
government coalition was very fragile with Meretz and Shas
squabbling constantly and NRP and Yisrael Ba'aliya trying to
chart independent courses while remaining inside.
A large portion of the country was never inclined to give the
Golan to Syria. With these serious blows to his prestige, it
is hard to see how Barak can convince enough of the swing
votes to trust him and to back his initiatives.
President Clinton would like a Syrian agreement to help end
his presidency on a positive note, but his State of the Union
address last week made it clear that he has other ideas to
help him make his mark.
The window of opportunity for an agreement in the Middle East
that Barak spoke of may have shut last week with these