Jerusalem, Dec 28: After lying low and being
counted off in the opinion polls, Israel's most decorated
combat soldier, Ehud Barak, is back in the political ring with
a big bang that has led to a loss of over 270 Palestinian
lives in Gaza in the most severe military offensive in the
coastal Strip since the 1967 war.
Barak, Israel's Defence Minister and the leader of the
Labour Party, was having to remind voters about his existence
by resorting to self-ridicule on billboards and taking
recourse to satirical shows. However, the wily general was
biding his time and the Gaza operation could be his trump card
before the February 10 elections.
"The beginning of the raid in Gaza bears the wily and
deceptive fingerprint of Barak. This does not make him the
most suitable candidate for the premiership, but it may
deliver him and his party from the humiliating defeat the
polls are predicting," daily Ha'aretz today said in its
"Who knows, maybe even Barak's performance in Eretz
Nehederet ("A Wonderful Country") was part of the
disinformation effort. Hamas might have thought that if the
Israeli minister of defence has enough spare time for making a
fool out of himself, then an attack can't be too close," it
said, referring to his last week's participation in the
popular Channel 2 satirical programme.
The former Chief of Staff, who in the past had raised
hopes among Israelis and sweptpast the polls in 1999 only to
bearguably dubbed "the most disappointing Prime Minister in
Israel's history", is on the path of rediscovering himself in
Israeli politics and making a comeback.
Barak stood firm against severe criticism from his
cabinet colleagues during the last few weeks by not being
drawn into an offensive against Islamist Hamas, but it now
turns out to bea part of his strategy to "change the rules of
the game in Gaza".
"This chatter would have made Entebbe or the Six-Day
War impossible,"he told his detractors amid dipping
popularity that put parliamentary seats of even veteran
politicians in his party at risk.
It is quite early to pass any verdict on Barak's
success or failure in the war against Hamas as the militant
faction continues to strike Israel with barrage of rocket
attacks, but he certainly seems to have calculated the risks
of going for such a major offensive barelya month and a half
before the general elections.
A blow to Hamas infrastructure and ability to prevent
rocket and mortar fire on Israel's southern communes could
make him the king, but failure to achieve the results of the
offensive could also push him on the backfoot.
Nosurveys have been conducted following the beginning
of Israeli operation in Gaza yesterday but local media has
paid special attention to Barak's gamble and its possible
implications on the forthcoming general elections in Israel.
First Published: Sunday, December 28, 2008, 00:00