Ehud Barak Is The Only Leader Who Can Take On Netanyahu

Ehud Barak. Photo by Michal Fattal

Benjamin Netanyahu is in trouble. He missed the opportunity to push forward the election at the high point of his popularity and now his leadership is flagging. The ruse to split Kadima failed and exposed the prime minister’s predicament. The Likud is returning to its extreme-right roots, as the party of the settlers and their sycophants. The recession is here and the cabinet is forced to raise taxes and cut back services. The controversy over the draft law has shown Netanyahu as a collaborator with the ultra-Orthodox draft-dodgers. The social protest is not sweeping masses like last year, but it is embarrassing the government.

Netanyahu is doing badly on the defense-diplomatic front as well. The talk about attacking Iran has become a political gag. The prime minister’s opponents mock his eagerness to go to war, like class bullies who took the weak boy’s toy and are now stamping on it. Shaul Mofaz tarred Bibi with the spin that he brought Tzachi Hanegbi to the government to create a majority for bombing Iran. What shabbiness. Saving Israel from the “second Holocaust,” as Netanyahu calls the Iranian nuclear bomb, now depends on a convicted wheeler-dealer.

Netanyahu has one winning card left – he has no rival. Public opinion polls show the prime minister is alone in the ring. His potential contestants are seen by the public as unprepared and unworthy. Yair Lapid is charismatic, but inexperienced. Shelly Yacimovich recoils from the high office. Shaul Mofaz is a constant zig-zagger and his party is crumbling. Tzipi Livni, Haim Ramon and Ehud Olmert have been kicked to the sidelines of public life and will have difficulty coming back.

What a tragedy. Netanyahu’s weakness and the Likud’s slide toward the extreme right present the center-left with an opportunity to return to power. But in the absence of a leader, the opportunity will evaporate. The public’s votes will scatter among several weightless parties and Netanyahu will collect them to his bosom after the election at the lowest price.

Read the whole story: Haaretz