Ehud Barak’s Theater of the Absurd
By Moshe Dann
There was no need to endanger Israeli troops.
How could Ehud Barak not see the looming disaster? Stopping a large Gaza-bound ship could have been carried out below the waterline, or by an assault on the bridge, using smoke bombs and tear gas to take control. Dropping individual soldiers into a mob of hostile people lacks reason.
The confrontation could have been handled with moach (brains) rather than koach (brawn). But that’s not Barak’s way: his history of misusing power and his lack of leadership goes back to the Yom Kippur War, at the least.
In 1973, Barak botched a rescue operation during the “Chinese Farm” battle near the Suez Canal and failed to rescue soldiers under the command of General Yitzhak Mordechai.
In 1982, during Operation Peace for Galilee — in which Israel attacked PLO and terrorist groups in Lebanon — Barak commanded the IDF in the eastern region of South Lebanon. He ordered an attack at Sultan Yakoub, in which Israeli soldiers were ambushed by Syrian army commandos and PLO guerilla units. Overpowered and suffering heavy losses, the IDF unit repeatedly begged for help to rescue them. Barak failed to respond. In that battle, 23 IDF soldiers were killed and three were captured: Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz. Missing in action, their fate is still unknown.
Five years later, when the “first intifada” broke out, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin assigned Ehud Barak, Amram Mitzna, and Dan Shomron — whose political views trumped military necessity — to quell the rebellion. They failed miserably. This not only encouraged Palestinian terrorists, especially Fatah and Hamas, but led to the PLO’s rehabilitation and the disastrous Oslo Accords in 1993, which Barak implemented.
According to Reuven Pedatzur, writing in Haaretz on November 5, 2000:
On the eve of the Gulf War , a decision to scuttle the project [to purchase submarines] was taken at the IDF General Staff: that is, to leave the navy without any submarines at all. Only the stricken conscience of Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor, after the extent of German aid to the Iraqis became known, led to the decision to fund the submarines. Thus, it was German money that saved the submarine project. …
The General Staff’s decision is cause for concern because all those who took part in the discussion knew very well, based on intelligence estimates, that within a small number of years Israel would be threatened by nuclear weapons. It is difficult to fathom how those who are supposed to be familiar with and to understand strategic thinking in the modern era decided to give up the strategic potential inherent in submarines.
[The] person who led the opposition to building the submarines in that discussion, and the person whose position prevailed in the end, was none other than the person who served at the time as deputy chief of staff, Ehud Barak.
In 1992, during a training exercise at the Tze’elim base, a missile hit a unit by mistake, killing five soldiers and seriously wounding six more. Watching this tragedy, Barak did nothing to help and refused to allow his helicopter to be used in the rescue operation. He was severely criticized for his behavior.
As prime minister in 1999, Barak gave away the entire gas and oil fields off the Gaza coast to the PA … for nothing, and without conditions. He never explained his decision.
In May 2000, Barak ordered a retreat from South Lebanon. Although the action was debatable, the chaotic manner in which it was carried out and the abandonment of the SLA has been widely condemned. Barak’s action gave Hezbollah its first victory.
At Camp David and Taba in 2000, Barak offered Yassir Arafat nearly all of the area conquered in the 1967 Six Day War, including most of eastern Jerusalem, without understanding that Arafat was planning a major terrorist insurgency.
Barak not only failed to anticipate the second intifada in 2000 when it broke out, but failed to put it down decisively.
In October 2000, at the outbreak of the second intifada war, Arabs attacked Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus). An IDF soldier, Madkat Yusuf, was trapped inside, critically wounded, and the unit was under fire. Prime Minister Barak and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz refused to rescue the soldiers and Yusuf bled to death.
After resigning in 2001, Barak went into business, using his name and contacts to amass a small fortune. According to a report in Haaretz by Gidi Weitz and Uri Blau, in 2002 Barak formed a company, “Ehud Barak, Ltd,” which quickly made (up to that time) almost NIS 30 million. They also reported:
As prime minister and former chief of staff, Barak receives more than MIS 400,000. In addition the state funded his bureau at a cost of NIS 3.2 million in 2004 and NIS 1.8 million in 2005.
They estimated Barak’s total annual income at NIS 10 million. Barak was involved in a number of companies and hedge funds. His business interests today are held by members of his family.
Barak was an enthusiastic supporter of the disengagement from Gaza and Northern Shomron in 2005, which displaced 9,000 Israelis and led to Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip.
In October 2009, Globes carried a major expose of Barak’s financial connections. That year, Barak spent a million NIS of Defense Ministry funds on a Paris weekend for himself, his wife, and staff.
In January 2009, as defense minister, Barak was directly responsible for the Cast Lead operation in Gaza, which was carried out in the shadow of the failures of the Second Lebanon War and the looming elections. While the action to stop terrorists and missile bombardment was necessary, it resulted in the Goldstone Report and international condemnation. Hamas remained in power, more smuggling tunnels were built, and Gilad Shalit is still in captivity.
At the Herzliya Conference in 2010, Barak offered unilateral withdrawal and begged the PA to assume power in Judea and Samaria. Otherwise, he warned, “Israel was in danger of becoming an apartheid nation.” This ignores serious security issues, denies reality, and substitutes nightmares instead of critical thinking.
Barak’s defeatism and arrogance, his political agenda, and his poor military judgment are simply not in Israel’s interests. PM Netanyahu may need the Labor Party for his coalition, but why does it have to include Ehud Barak?
The author, a former assistant professor of history, is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.