Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Ellul 5760 - September 6, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Barak, the Pathetic King

by N. Ze'evi

The initial storm over Ehud Barak's declaration of a "secular revolution" evaporated into nothing. And the media lost no time in unleashing a scathing attack on their formerly beloved Prime Minister, who is quickly sinking into political irrelevancy.

The main problem with the so-called secular revolution, media commentators pointed out, was not so much its rehashed agenda and antagonistic stand toward the chareidim. It was really no revolution at all. Rather, it was a transparent, and somewhat pathetic, attempt by a beleaguered Prime Minister to divert the media's attention from the failings of his government.

Part of Barak's so-called secular revolution was a push to impose a constitution on the Jewish state. The problem is that even the most unseasoned political observer understands that there is nowhere near a majority in the Knesset to pass such an undertaking.

"A Prime Minister with 42 MKs who announces his intention to pass a constitution, is like Albania declaring war on the United States," wrote Ha'aretz.

"The government's intention to complete the constitution and to pass the civil marriage law, shouldn't be related to as a declaration of intent," Ha'aretz wrote. "Instead, it is simply a sign that even Barak understands that he has no choice but to call new elections."

Yoel Marcus a veteran Ha'aretz commentator presented a series of embarrassing questions to Barak:

"How does he intend to pass the constitution when his parliamentary support is limited to a fifth of the Knesset? How will he pass a constitution, off the cuff, amidst a fight with the chareidim and religious, plus the evacuation of the territories and the redeployment of settlements, when he doesn't even have a majority for sneezing?

"From day to day, the circle of people, many of whom are his supporters, who claim that they have stopped understanding him, widens," Marcus pointed out. "One day, he is in favor of Shas, the next day against it. One day he draws UTJ closer, the next day he enrages it.

"One day, he is in a peace-ecstasy with Syria, out of the totally mistaken presumption that now is the right time for the process, while he neglects, to the point of personal affront, Arafat. The next day he accords top priority to an agreement with the Palestinians.

"One day, he works like an eager beaver to put together a government. The following day he says that we will make do with acting ministers until it becomes clear whether or not there is a peace process."

The fact that Barak is losing people who were once extremely loyal to him was also not lost on the media.

Aviv Lavi, a media commentator, pointed out that it was no coincidence that the declaration of a "secular revolution" was perfectly timed to deflect the harsh accusations made by Shimon Batat, a top ranking official in Barak's office, who left with the slam of a door.

Batat attacked Barak's media advisors, headed by Moshe Gaon. Instead of limiting their jobs to marketing Barak's policies in an attractive package, they have become the policy makers.

In response, the Prime Minister and his staff spent the weekend in frantic attempts to deny the charges hurled against them.

"However their conduct proved that it was worthwhile to listen to Batat," Lavi wrote. "Of all the serious things he related about his esteemed boss, the claim that Ehud Barak makes fateful decisions in accordance with the results of the surveys was the strongest."

Thus, the new spin that came out of the Prime Minister's office in the wake of Batat's interview, was undeniably an attempt to divert the media away from criticizing the Prime Minister and back to the more comfortable zone of bashing the chareidim.

In the end, however, the diversion was to no avail.

Besides being obsessed with his media image, the Prime Minister has come under fire for pursuing two conflicting policies at the same time. According to Yediot Acharonot reporter Gabi Baron, the Prime Minister has been sharply criticized by One Israel ministers for failing to realize that if he wants to make peace, he needs to have the support of the religious sector.

Thus, it was the height of political idiocy for Barak to declare a "secular revolution" at the very time that the peace process is crumbling before his eyes.

This, too, is a sign of political chaos. In an interview with Yediot Acharonot correspondent Nachum Barnea, a close aide to Barak bemoaned the current state of affairs.

The government has lost the ability to present its ideas to the public coherently. "When we try to present things, everything drops from our hands," the aide said.

B. Michael, also of Yediot Acharonot, took an even sharper tone. Under the headline: "Its Almost Pathetic," he wrote:

"During recent days, the worst thing that could have happened to Ehud Barak from a political standpoint has occurred: He has stopped being annoying. The broad spectrum of feelings which he arouses in all who look at him, comes from the realms of the drained sigh, the forlorn shoulder shaking, the rolling of eyes, and the pitying tongue clicking . . .

"The secular revolution was yet another embarrassing flop, like the flight of the clowns once a year at a carnival over the Thames River disguised as a chicken and a propeller. They are at least funny. Barak is not funny any more.

"In this way the issue of the draft of the chareidim finished, the same as the fiscal revolution, and peace with Syria and in this way we can guess it will finish with the Palestenians," Michael predicted.

Michael concludes sarcastically: "Perhaps, in order to minimize the potential future damage to the Prime Minister's image, it is worthwhile to advise Barak to stop dealing with 'minor' issues, and to work on more important and urgent ones.

"What does he have to do with National Service, a Constitution for Israel or civil marriages? He should set his eyes on bigger things which suit his abilities, such a declaration that by September 2001, Israel will once and for all solve the energy problem, and that by February 2002 hunger will no longer exist in the Third World, and that by March 17 a blue and white patch will be pinned on the ozone hole, and by July (August at the latest) a cure will be found for cancer.

"In order to stress his resolve, Mr. Barak should set up a special steering team to oversee the various projects, and only after it has become clear that even though we have done everything, we still haven't found a partner for the energy problem, the starvation problem, for the sealing of the hole in the ozone, or for the finding of a cure for cancer, only then we can hold a referendum on whether or not to abolish the Religious Affairs Ministry . . ."

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