Ehud Barak’s new Israeli Democratic Party has authored talking points, including some about getting tougher than Netanyahu on Gaza. The points were distributed to the candidates of the new merger slate, Democratic Union, which includes the Meretz list as well as former Labor member Stav Shaffir.
This was too much for Meretz, which is supposed to mark the far left of the Zionist spectrum.
The clause that upset the Meretz members, as Haaretz reported, said:
Before anything, we must restore the deterrence equation in Gaza. Netanyahu chooses restraint and pays protection to Hamas, and thus forfeits the security of residents of the border region.
The document also gave preeminence to generals:
Gaza creates a different challenge for the military echelons and the political echelons. The military echelons, the chief of general staff, the head of Military Intelligence and the head of Southern Command are the ones who will recommend to the government when and how to restore the deterrence against Hamas.
Several Meretz leaders demanded to have these points shelved, and they reportedly were.
This macho talk, painting Netanyahu as too soft, is not surprising, coming from Barak, a former Israeli general.
This is precisely the militaristic macho vein that Benny Gantz, the Blue White center-opposition bloc leader, came in with, when he presented himself as contender in January, when he was still in his own party called Resilience to Israel. A former general, Gantz boasted of having brought Gaza back to the “stone age” as Chief of Staff, showed aerial footage of his destruction of whole neighborhoods in Gaza in 2014, and vowed to return to his policy of systematic extrajudicial assassinations.
And by the way, Gantz is supposed to be the moderate, liberal answer to Netanyahu.
As for Barak, who has now supposedly aligned himself as a “leftist” with Meretz, is he really left of Gantz?
According to Barak himself, not really.
“They say I’m a leftist”, he told Haaretz journalist Yossi Verter over a month ago, before the merger. But he was no more left than any of the principals of Gantz’s Blue White bloc.
How am I more left-wing than Gantz, [Gabi] Ashkenazi or [Yair] Lapid? Maybe in some respects I’m to the left of [Moshe] Ya’alon, but if Yoaz Hendel was not in Kahol Lavan now, I’d happily take him.
Let’s have a look at that sentence. Barak is rhetorically saying that he’s to the right of those three leaders – Gantz, Ashkenazi, Lapid – and suggests that he just might be to the left of Ya’alon, a former Likudnik who has called the Palestinian problem “cancer” to which he applies “chemotherapy”. So maybe, maybe Barak is to his left, maybe not.
Then he mentions his affinity for Yoaz Hendel, a former Netanayhu advisor. Hendel is further on the right in Blue White than even Ya’alon. Hendel and Zvi Hauser boycotted the Blue-White dominated rally for “Democracy”, because it was announced that Ayman Odeh, the most prominent Palestinian lawmaker, would be speaking. (Yaalon merely complained that people were turning their cars around because an Arab was speaking). Yoaz Hendel is an author of rabidly racist anti-Palestinian revenge-fantasies, where they are Nazis. That’s the person Ehud Barak wants to have at his side.
Barak spoke to Verter when he was still seeking out political options on the Israel right. But this is not a slip of the tongue. Barak is really out there ideologically. Barak has boasted of having been to the right of both Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman on the question of bombing Iran, when he served as Defense Minister under Netanyahu, in the 2009-2013 government (Lieberman was Foreign Minister).
Meretz lawmakers Tamar Zandberg and Esawi Freige, as well as Meretz Knesset member Mossi Raz, were reported to have demanded the removal of the Gaza “deterrence” points from the documents. But talking points or no talking points, Barak is the hawk that these people decided to marry.
And this is the problem of Zionist politics in general. The parties generally end up pulling right in their survival calculations. Last elections Meretz invested a lot of effort in getting the “Arab vote”, and that managed to just save them from oblivion (falling below the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent). This time they’re turning rightwards, with faux ‘leftists’ like Barak. It’s also worth mentioning that Mossi Raz, formerly a Peace Now leader, has recently hailed Ben Gurion’s achievements, chiding Netanyahu for “destroying” them – typically failing to see the state-founder as a master ethnic cleanser.
A Meretz source told Haaretz of the talking points: “That’s not our terminology. We believe that we must restore hope to the residents of the Gaza Strip, not deterrence. A term like ‘deterrence’ is from the lexicon of army people.”
The recent document also shows that the new ticket’s name hasn’t yet been absorbed by the public; so members were told to mention the slate’s three leaders – Nitzan Horowitz, Stav Shaffir and Barak – at every opportunity. So even though Barak is supposedly in the background as number 10 on the slate, unlikely to enter the Knesset, he is very much in the front here. He also assigned a General to represent his party as the number 3 in the merger slate: Yair Golan.
This is Barak’s text. It may be the they don’t want to talk that way right now in Meretz. But whether they speak the “lexicon of army people” or not, the militarist ideology is there. This cocktail is not a leftist one.