Here is a question for decent citizens who are planning to vote for Labor, Hatnuah or Yesh Atid: Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to entrust Ehud Barak with the Defense Ministry benefit or harm Israel?
In my opinion, as well in the opinions of many others, Barak was the best suited for the job. The Netanyahu-Barak duo worked well. The effects of the economic siege on Iran they achieved are an enormous accomplishment, even though the pair did disagree on the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
This begs an additional question: If Barak had acted the way Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich and Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni intend to act — ruling out joining a Netanyahu-led coalition in advance — he would not have held the defense portfolio since 2009, to the detriment of all of us.
(Side note: I don't have anything against former Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin, who harshly criticized Netanyahu and Barak in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth over the weekend. But I do feel that what he said in that interview borders on a brutal breach of trust. Did Netanyahu and Barak really put their own egos ahead of the measures that need to be taken against Iran? No. It was Diskin who put his own personal frustrations ahead of the good of the state. Take a look at yourself before you criticize others.)
Anyone voting for the center-left parties should keep in mind the case of Barak and the defense minister’s post. Every party is entitled to refuse entry into Netanyahu's coalition after the upcoming election. Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, for example, has every right to refuse to enter the coalition if the mandatory enlistment of ultra-Orthodox men to the military isn't sorted out, at least partially; Livni is entitled to refuse if she is not offered a substantial enough portfolio, because during her term as foreign minister she competently oversaw the negotiations with Ahmed Qurei, unlike then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and there is no reason for her to join a coalition from a disadvantage; the same is true for Shelly Yachimovich if understandings aren't reached on social welfare issues.
But forming a united front that rules out joining the coalition in advance, without knowing what the center-left parties could get from Netanyahu in exchange for their presence in the coalition? This is entirely irresponsible. It is undignified. At the end of the day, it could also force one of them, during coalition negotiations, to have to lie and break the commitments to which they are trying to tie each other to before the election.
It is true that the opposition's job is to topple the coalition, not to support it. But anyone who speaks to people in the U.S. and in Europe, including Jews, understands that a coalition in which Likud is the most leftist party spells trouble for Israel in the international arena. Such a coalition will not be able to reach a modus vivendi with the sympathetic West.
The deal that Livni offered Yachimovich and Lapid smacks of a binding, political cartel. If it had been made on the free market it would be considered illegal.