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
"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
"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
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
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
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 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,
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
"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 . .