Ehud Barak at anti-reform protest
Ehud Barak at anti-reform protestFlash 90

Ehud Barak, noteworthy Israeli army general with a highly decorated military career, acquired public notoriety last year for his role in masterminding, organizing, and financing, the sweeping protest campaign against judicial reform in Israel.

Throughout 2023, prior to the slaughter of October 7, he and his like-minded political allies sowed chaos in the streets, intimidated citizens, mobilized strikes, incited army reservists, and brought Israel to the precipice of civil war. They engaged in a so-called non-violent struggle for democracy, speaking on behalf of entrenched elites in Israeli society, while charging that the democratically elected government of Binyamin Netanyahu was illegitimate.

A shocking video filmed three years ago shows former PM Ehud Barak and selected personages, including defense figures, planning a coup against the elected government during the corona epidemic. His words in the film:

"It is well known that I am not overly humble. Objectively, if, heaven forfend, Bibi disappears one day…and we find ourselves facing deterioration with regard to the Hezbollah or Iran and a socio-economic crisis, and someone has to make hard decisions…then objectively I am more suited than anyone the country to take the driver's seat.

"I have a friend who is a historian and who once told me: 'Ehud, they will call on you [to lead] when dead bodies float in the Yarkon River' but I wish to emphasize that the bodies will not be those of workers who infiltrated from the 'territories' nor those of Israeli Arabs, the bodies that float will be those of Jews killed by Jews."

Now, with the Gaza war still unfolding, the protesters he led are back in the streets.

Ehud Barak, prior to adopting a militant stance in the domestic political arena, had been at the pivot of Israel’s decision-making axis. On the most critical national issues touching on Israel’s security and survival, we can illuminate the man’s incapacity for sound judgment and responsible leadership.

Peace in our Time

Israel’s craving for peace found in Barak a dedicated crusader. As the IDF Chief-of-Staff (1991-1995), two political challenges demanded his participation. He implemented the controversial Oslo Accord in its military dimensions regarding Israeli withdrawal in 1994 from Gaza and Jericho. Aside from the contentious Palestinian Arab issue, Barak was also involved in negotiations with Syria and determined that Hafez al-Assad was ready for peace. Withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and expelling 17,000 Israeli citizens, were the essential conditions in trying to consummate Israeli-Arab peace between Israel and Syria.

To his dismay, the Oslo track was set on fire, and the Syrian track remained blocked; but Barak remained adamant to walk the road to peace.

In 1999, Ehud Barak defeated Netanyahu in the direct election for the premiership and set about again to negotiate withdrawal from the Golan and reach peace with Syria. In January the following year at Shepherdstown, West Virginia, PM Barak pursued a political settlement with Syria through the mediation of President Clinton. The president told Assad that Barak accepts Syria’s presence proximate to the east bank of the Sea of Galilee, after an Israeli pullback from the Golan with demilitarization arrangements. Ultimately, Barak failed to reach an agreement with the obstreperous Assad, his heavy investment in time, energy, and reputation coming to naught.

Not to Barak’s credit, Israel continues to control the high-ground 60 kilometers from Mount Bental on the Golan Heights to Damascus, rather than having the Syrian army positioned to rain artillery fire down on Tiberius and more.

Unsuccessful in his Syrian démarche, the indefatigable Barak relentlessly strode alternative paths. As both prime minister and defense minister, he decided on a unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army in May 2000 from southern Lebanon after 18 years of incessant skirmishes and bloodshed. Barak’s cruel abandonment of the South Lebanese Army (SLA) was a strategic blunder and a moral stain against loyal allies.

Hezbollah immediately filled the territorial vacuum – took over the south, moved its forces to the Israeli border, amassed weapons for further warfare, and exacerbated Israel’s security situation. Barak’s precipitous decision recklessly exposed Israel’s population to the Iranian proxy terrorist movement. The bitter fruits of that withdrawal reverberate in the Galilee, with the evacuation of more than 80,000 Israeli residents as Hezbollah pounds Israel with daily attacks.

From the prospective of the present ongoing Israel – Hezbollah war, the miscalculation was of a piece with Barak’s political arrogance to assume he would bring peace to the Galilee. Rather, he allowed Hezbollah to consolidate both its political stranglehold over Lebanon and its military deployment against Israel. The results have been nothing less than disastrous.

In July 2000, Barak conducted direct talks at Camp David with Yasser Arafat under the auspices of President Clinton, to achieve a final settlement in the Israel–Palestinian Arab impasse. The Israeli prime minister was in a generous spirit, offering over ninety per-cent of Judea and Samaria, much of east Jerusalem, shared management of the Temple Mount, and the return of thousands of Palestinian Arab refugees. After Arafat rejected Barak’s naive political largesse, the PLO leader launched the second intifada terrorist campaign murdering hundreds of Israeli citizens.

A Loose Cannon

His long and distinguished military service aside, there is no way to judge Barak other than as a political failure. He brought infamy and fatality upon Israel and the Israelis. His obsession with the flawed formula of “territories for peace” underscored the futility of Israeli withdrawal from any territories.

Reeling from failure, Barak’s misjudgment has now led him to call for thousands of Israelis to lay siege to the Knesset in order to bring down the government. With his typical bombast Barak recently declared, “When the state will be closed down, Netanyahu will understand that his time is up.” Promotion of turmoil has become the hallmark of Barak.

He once protected his country, but now endangers the country’s national unity and political stability. Exuding swagger and ego, as demonstrated in his London Chatham House interview in March 2023, this otherwise talented personality puts his intelligence and experience, of which there is an abundance, in a dubious light.

Dr. Mordechai Nisantaught Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and, among other works, wrote The Crack-Up of the Israeli Left.

A version of this article appeared recently in FrontPage Magazine