Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Shevat 5760 - February 2, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Barak May Survive, but not his Deal with Syria

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 subordinates.

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 blame.

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 revelations.

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