ANALYSIS / Only Netanyahu and Barak Can Take On Iran

By Ari Shavit
March 26, 2009

The hatred for Benjamin Netanyahu goes deeper. It stems from the days when he was considered the anti-Christ to Yitzhak Rabin and an indirect inciter to his murder. It continued in the days when it seemed that peace was within reach and only Netanyahu was preventing it. But after it transpired that even in Netanyahu's absence there was no peace, the hatred toward him did not diminish. It simply transformed itself. The Israeli mainstream elite still cannot forgive Netanyahu for being the most eloquent, powerful speaker of the sane right wing. In the absence of peace and the absence of real faith in peace, hating Netanyahu remains the left-wing tribe's emotional campfire.

But the hatred toward Ehud Barak is no less intense. It stems from Barak's failure to fulfill the messianic expectations people had of him after ousting Netanyahu. It continued with Barak's smashing the illusion of peace in our time at Camp David. But even after Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni proved in Annapolis that it was no more than an illusion, the hatred toward Barak has not diminished.

Barak's being a former kibbutznik who allegedly crossed the lines only increased the hostility. The Israeli elite is still incapable of forgiving the Labor chairman for taking the peace path and proving it was a cul de sac.

For lack of peace or real faith in peace, hating Barak has become the left wing's new emotional hub.

Netanyahu and Barak have many flaws. Netanyahu is fickle and Barak is tricky. Netanyahu is arrogant and Barak is condescending. They both lack emotional intelligence and have dull political senses.

However, the real Netanyahu and Barak have nothing in common with the two detested scarecrows who were thrown into the fire this week.

Despite all their shortcomings, the two leaders who saw reality clearly in the 1990s see things as they are today as well. If they manage to mend their past mistakes and work together, they have a good chance of surprising.

Netanyahu and Barak's immediate mission is Iran. The designated prime minister and defense minister do not have much time. Within a few months they must do what hasn't been done for years - recruit the international community to impose an economic-diplomatic siege on Tehran's ayatollahs. Entering Obama's Oval Office alongside Barak, instead of Avigdor Lieberman, will greatly improve Netanyahu's power of persuasion. But if it happens that the United States is not ready to take the chestnuts out of the fire, Netanyahu and Barak will have to prepare Israel for harsh scenarios. Nobody in Israel's leadership is more suited or capable than these two.

The other mission facing the two is the economy. Within a short time Israel will face the debt iceberg of the large concerns and a wave of mass dismissals. Having Netanyahu, Barak and Ofer Eini at the helm of the economic campaign is extremely significant. It will enable prudent, harmonious and down-to-business action, providing Israel with the best chances of surviving the economic storm without drowning.

The 2009 election results were a nightmare. They gave the right a solid majority, but prevented the right wing's leader from ruling. Netanyahu navigated these horrors well.

He managed to extract himself from the trap of a narrow, dark, hopeless government. Barak's decision to join Netanyahu is fairly problematic, but ultimately under these circumstances, Barak has acted wisely and courageously.

While Livni and her followers wrapped themselves in self-righteousness, Netanyahu and Barak acted with maturity.

The two most hated men of Israeli politics proved once again that they are much more sober and serious than those who detest them.

In this time and place, Netanyahu and Barak are the only responsible adults.

Thus the late pact between them is not bad, but good news. After many years of stupid leadership, it is finally offering Israel something of substance.