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Barak unplugged

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Ehud Barak, in a wide-ranging interview with Ari Shavit of Ha’aretz, offers some reflections on the Israeli public’s perception of him, his capacity for human emotion and, of course, his indispensability as leader of the State of Israel. Here are some excerpts:

On his leadership

Many people want to live with the illusion that we are Holland or Denmark or Sweden. But we are not. We live in a cruel environment in which the weak are shown no mercy. Accordingly, what is needed in this place and at this time is a leader who has a certain combination of qualities, a certain record of experience and coolheadedness. The question that every Israeli woman and man has to ask is the same one the patient asks before open-heart surgery. Not whether the surgeon is pleasant or empathetic, but whether he has performed surgery before and whether he knows how to perform surgery. Life and death depend on the answer to that question…

On his emotions

I do not lack feelings. Between me and those close to me there is hugging, listening and mutual support… I will reveal to you that my heart can be broken by unrequited love. That happened. Certainly with my daughters or at my father’s grave, I can be emotional to the point of tears. Even a good movie can move me to tears…

On the Camp David talks of 2000

There is something unfinished between the left and me. People are still angry about what happened in 2000 [the failed Camp David meeting]. The belief in peace with the Palestinians was a very central part of their way of life … So it is hard for them to accept the fact that I went to [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat and found that he did not want to solve the problem of 1967, but [rather that] of 1947. Arafat is dead, but people are still angry at me. They do not forgive me for exposing a truth that toppled the secular ‘religion’ of the deep left…

On Gaza

The talk by certain ministers in Kadima about responding with immediate fire to the sources of the shooting [from Gaza] is sheer populism, totally simplistic. It is a Pavlovian proposal that will turn Israel into a Pavlovian hostage of every extremist organization in Gaza. I see no blessing in acting before thinking. We already tried that in the Second Lebanon War. What’s needed is to count to 10, prepare an operation as required, and if in the end there is no choice, implement it. I find the tahadiyeh option preferable…

On his political comeback (*still a work in progress)

The rumors of my demise were premature. So were the rumors about the demise of the Labor Party… When I saw how things were managed here in the past few years I started to worry. The State of Israel is a one-time creation. Three generations ago we were in degenerative exile, and no one knew where we would be three generations later. We are truly in the eye of the storm … That is why I returned. Because when I see the ship listing and the cargo on the ship tilting, and the passengers ignoring this and preferring to repress things – I know that I have a part to play. I feel that responsibility has been given to me. I feel I am in a struggle for something that is far more important and far bigger than me.

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