Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is like a clever football
runner: he is constantly changing direction to keep everyone
off balance and guessing about his real intentions.
When he started out he declared that he would be everyone's
prime minister, and he made great efforts to include even
the religious parties such as UTJ and Shas in his government
in order to have the largest possible majority in the
Knesset. In his most decisive tone of voice he explained
that it was essential for the State that the chareidi
parties be brought into the center of things, even if that
prevented him from doing everything that he wanted.
Barak did not flinch when Meretz leader Yossi Sarid resigned
from the government (the second group to leave the
government after UTJ) when the interests of Shas and Meretz
clashed, since Shas was much more important to the "peace
effort" which was paramount.
However, not long after this, Barak tried to form a national
unity government to include the Likud, a move that obviously
would put any of his peace efforts on hold.
Then he lost the support of Shas and declared a secular
cultural revolution that would change the nature of Israeli
society, removing all public traces of Yiddishkeit.
Not long after that he struck another deal with Shas,
shelving the whole secular revolution.
In the last few weeks he has oscillated between declaiming
the might of Israel and quiet acquiescence to the demands of
the Palestinians for relaxing security measures in the hope
that they will negotiate an agreement. He accepted the
conditions of U.S. President Clinton, but then declared that
he would never give up sovereignty of the Har Habayis,
effectively refusing to accept one of the central
What is left after all this? Can anything be discerned that
can be called Barak's true position?
Though Barak is ostensibly the leader of the Labor Party,
his consistent positions seem to be those of Meretz. He is
perhaps less principled and more willing to bend his
policies to the needs of the moment, but those are the lines
to which he always returns.
He is personally in favor of complete secularization of
Israeli society -- and thus not in tune even with the bulk
of the Labor Party which retains some basic Jewish feelings.
Barak ran his last campaign against Jewish religion, arguing
against giving money to yeshivos (all yeshivos) and for the
drafting of yeshiva students. The Labor party, throughout
the years, has always been careful not to alienate the
His position on the Land of Israel is also that of Meretz.
Despite his rhetoric, he apparently has no attachment to any
part of Eretz Yisroel, and is willing to promise to give it
up even before the Palestinians promise anything in return.
In this he is also following the line of Meretz rather than
the traditional line of the Labor Party.
It is true that the parameters of public debate have been
changed by Barak. The partitioning of Yerushalayim, for
example, has been put on the table. Yet the acceptance of
these positions still remains the view of a small minority
of the citizens of Israel, and a smaller minority of the
Jews of Israel.
That is why polls (which always tend to err to the Left)
show Barak with about 20 percent of the vote, and that is
why he is unlikely to receive much more, if that much.