Ehud Barak is heading for home, and this time for good,
although Barak has repeatedly demonstrated that with him,
nothing is ever final. After having entrenched the concept
of flip-flopping into the political establishment, this time
it seems he has done his last flip-flop.
Ehud Barak, the worst, most ineffectual prime minister in
the annals of the State of Israel, has only himself to blame
for this misfortune. He is the one who caused the public,
and later the political establishment, to spew him out.
Essentially he was banished: he ate rotten fish and was
driven out of town.
Many religious Knesset members and political figures have
used Pharaoh and Egypt as a parable to illustrate what
happened to Ehud Barak--the man who picked a fight with
bnei Torah and the Torah world, the kedushah
of Shabbos and taharas hayichus, and attempted to
raze every remnant of Yiddishkeit, left in the
Barak could have made a quiet exit, but HaKadosh Boruch
Hu hardened his heart so that he would be afflicted with
another plague, and another and another. One to recompense
him for the "secular revolution," one for Shabbos, one for
civil marriage, and the final plague, the harshest of them
all, for persecuting the Torah world and the yeshiva
students and avreichim.
Every subsequent prime minister, whether from the Left or
the Right, should learn from his mistake: Don't meddle with
Shabbos Kodesh or lomdei Torah, for certain
lines should not be crossed.
Barak wanted to be Defense Minister. He wanted to remain a
part of the political establishment in the highest position
made available to the Labor Party, and thought he could take
the job without causing a ripple. He underestimated how much
derision he had brought upon himself within his own party,
and all the more so in other parties and by the public at
Ehud Barak had so deeply ingrained the flip-flop policy in
the political establishment and in his own party that it is
being adopted almost unabashedly by other Labor Party
politicians, like a contagious disease. His colleagues,
however, have not come down with such a bad case of it; with
Barak, when someone would try to find out what his opinion
was on a given issue, the question was which Barak--the
morning Barak, the afternoon Barak, or the nighttime Barak;
the Sunday Barak, the Monday Barak or the Tuesday Barak.
Although other politicians have not reached such a sorry
state, they have definitely learned the art of flip-
Take Avraham Burg, for example. Last Monday, when Barak
tried one of his final maneuvers to salvage the Defense
Ministry portfolio--announcing that he would resign as head
of the Labor Party and would only serve as Defense Minister
as long as his associates would let him have the portfolio
without putting up a fight--Burg expressed approval. His
only concern was that the post he was eyeing, the leadership
of the Labor Party, was opening up, and that primaries would
be held in the near future.
One day later Burg was already on the other side of the
fence, siding with those who oppose allowing Barak to remain
in politics in any capacity whatsoever, not even as defense
Two weeks ago, when Barak consented to serve as defense
minister, Burg described it as "a political infection," but
last week, when Barak suddenly agreed to step down as party
chairman and to satisfy himself with the Defense Ministry,
the political infection went away, as if antibiotics had
been administered. Suddenly Burg was willing to have Barak
occupy a position that might otherwise fall into the hands
of one of his two arch rivals on his way up the rungs--
Binyamin Ben Eliezer and Chaim Ramon.
A Change in the Committee
The current procedure for selecting judges has no equal in
any other democratic nation. All enlightened countries
employ a different system, but in Israel, the very people
who consider themselves to be enlightened are strongly
opposed to any change.
No other democratic country would ever consider allowing a
group of individuals to withdraw into a closed room and
emerge with the names of the judges with no further review.
What about public visibility? What about the public debate
over each and every appointment? Such a procedure is
definitely more suited to a totalitarian state than a
Yet this same elite, enlightened circle is fervently opposed
to even a slight change in the system used to select judges,
and especially regarding judges of the High Court, and is
afraid that people and judges who do not share the exact
same thinking and worldview as that of the ruling class
might come in and take part in the judicial system and the
High Court. In other words, their opposition is essentially
an attempt to bar competent, top-notch jurists who did not
grow up in their schools.
Many proposals to change the system for selecting judges
have been made in the Knesset, from holding democratic
elections for them, to holding elections in the Knesset,
similar to the procedure by which the President and the
Comptroller are selected.
A number of ideas have also been suggested regarding the
appointment of the President of the High Court, the most
powerful figure on the High Court and in the judicial system
as a whole. Proposals have been to select the oldest
justice, rather than the justice with the longest tenure, as
the current law prescribes. A proposal has also been made to
set a fixed term of office for the President of the High
Court, instead of the open-ended term through the age of
seventy, which is currently in place.
Yet so far no one has suggested altering the composition of
the Judicial Selection Committee, if not to change the
selection system, then at least to change the present
composition of the selection committee and to make it more
pluralistic, with members who hold varied opinions and
represent different sectors.
The current Judicial Selection Committee consists of two
government representatives with the Minister of Justice
serving as committee chairman, two Knesset representatives,
two representatives from the Bar Association, and three High
Court justices, including the Court President of course.
Last week Yigal Bibi (Mafdal) tabled a bill to alter the
composition of the committee. According to his proposal, the
number of committee members would be increased from 9 to 11,
and the judiciary, the legislature and the government would
receive equal representation. Thus there would be three MKs,
three justices, and the Bar would retain two
Bibi's strategy is really quite logical: if you can't beat
them from without, conquer them from within. Through his
proposal Bibi wants to alter the balance of power between
the elite clique currently presiding and those who are not
numbered among its numbers.
Bibi stresses that his proposal is a temporary measure until
a totally new system is instituted and the nominating
committee is disbanded.
This bill, like all of the other proposals to change the
existing selection system, will be received with vehement
opposition by the Ministry of Justice and by those who hold
an interest in the High Court. Why would Aharon Barak agree
to reduce his influence and power from one-third of
committee members to just over one-fourth? No highly
motivated individual would agree to this, and no one denies
that Barak is indeed highly motivated.
Hooray for Micronesia
How many of our readers have heard of, know of or have ever
It consists of four islands in the South Pacific. Micronesia
has 133,144 inhabitants, all of whom are Christian. It is a
small country--in fact, a tiny country. Perhaps it would
have been more apt to call it Microscopia. The Micronesian
legislature has a grand total of 14 representatives.
And what does this have to do with politics? Last week, the
Knesset's Interior Committee discussed a request by Interior
Minister Chaim Ramon to grant Micronesians a visa exemption,
mirroring the visa exemption Micronesia has granted Israeli
The Foreign Ministry recommended granting the exemption, the
Interior Minister accepted the recommendation and rubber-
stamped it and the final stop, the Knesset's Interior
Committee, also approved the proposal last week.
How is it that the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry
and the Knesset Committee devoted time and energy to this
trifling country and unanimously approved a visa exemption?
All of Micronesia is smaller than Bnei Brak, and half the
size of Haifa.
The answer is that this little country is one of Israel's
closest, most loyal allies, perhaps even closer than our
number-one friend, the United States. Micronesia supports
Israel on every issue in the international arena, without
exception. On every issue associated with Israel that comes
up in the United Nations, Micronesia is a sure vote; the
yeas are invariably at least two, Israel and Micronesia.
Five years ago, for instance, during Netanyahu's term in
office, following the violent incidents in the Territories
after the Western Wall Tunnels were opened up, a proposal
was made in the United Nations to condemn Israel. Not a
single country supported Israel, except for Micronesia. Even
the U.S., Israel's dear friend and ally which can usually
even be counted on to veto decisions against Israel, opted
to abstain rather than to block the condemnation. But
Micronesia remained at our side. And now the Ministry of
Tourism is anticipating that perhaps thousands and tens of
thousands of Micronesian tourists (hundreds of thousands is
of course out of the question) will flock to visit