Ten Commandments for Barak

Published in The Jerusalem Post on May 23, 1999

The thunder and lightening of elections have past, bequeathing us the messy business of governing. Prime Minister-Elect Ehud Barak, may he prosper and succeed, desperately seeks to avoid the many mistakes of his predecessors. Here are Ten Commandments, four positive and six negative, that Barak would be wise to observe:


* Thou shalt share power widely. Be inclusive, not divisive. “The Prime Minister of all Israelis”, as you have said so admirably. Settlers are not “propellers”, the religious are not outcasts.


This means absolute intolerance for Tommy Lapid-style hate. It means reigning-in Labor Party pit-bulls Dalia Itzik and Ofer Pines. Keep Yossi Sarid at bay too. Last time around, they did nothing but attack everything of value and any institution of importance to traditional Jews. Get a consensus as broad as possible for major decisions.


* Thou shalt not bite off more than you can chew. Be realistic and go slow. Don’t try to bring us peace, all at once, on all fronts – despite the advice you are getting already from Washington and the Israeli hard-left. There are serious, painful concessions ahead on the Golan, in Judea and Samaria, and even Jerusalem, and you need to build support incrementally.


Shimon Peres-style day-dreaming is very dangerous for us, and for you politically. Stay away from the phrase “a New Middle East”. We all know that the Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi missiles are still out there. Nor have Hamas and Hizballah disappeared either.


* Thou shalt be Jewish. Not just Israeli. In this regard, your victory speech the other night (“hineni heani mimaas”) was Jewishly beautiful, a stirring masterpiece. In adopting the trappings of tradition you will distinguish yourself, again, from Shimon Peres. The defeated Peres haughtily, sneeringly told Haaretz in 1996 that “the Jews won; Israelis lost”. No, Mr. Barak, your victory is and must be a Jewish victory too.


I know that your colleagues on the Left will give you a rough ride on this point. Already they are rumbling and complaining about the fact that you visited the Kotel *before* going to Yitzhak Rabin’s grave. For what its worth, I think you have your symbolic priorities straight and made the right decision.


* Thou shalt not invoke Yitzhak Rabin’s name in vain, at every opportunity. Yes, the late Prime Minister Rabin was a military hero, and in the wake of his frightening assassination, he is a hallowed martyr. But Rabin’s diplomatic legacy is quite controversial. You are not, I trust, going to make his mistakes by gratuitously stigmatizing and delegitimizing half the public, or by signing peace accords with flimsy security provisions.


So don’t rub right-wing noses in the highly-politicized “Rabin angel of peace” campaign. Not if you want to build unanimity towards future peace accords.


* Thou shalt not blame previous administrations for your failures. Doing so was a hallmark of Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure in office, and it is neither mature nor responsible. Besides, Bibi left you the economy and our personal security situation in better shape than he found them.


* Thou shalt have zero tolerance for terror. Brook no excuses, abide no exceptions. Unlike Peres, make it clear to the Palestinians that than even one bus bomb will derail everything, for a very long time, and cost them in tangible real estate.


The Palestinian Authority *is* capable of 100 percent effort in fighting terror, and 100 percent in results too. To help defeat Bibi, Arafat kept it quiet for months. Can you imagine what Jibril Rajoub’s men would have done to the Hamas guys who might have bombed Bibi back into power?


In addition, don’t become too enamoured of the love and support that Western leaders are going to shower upon you each time you make a territorial concession. Think about us, not them.


And remember: there is no such thing as “victims of peace” (ugh!). Do not ever use that detestable term.


* Thou shalt take advice, listen and consult. Netanyahu often disregarded the counsel of his security and intelligence chiefs — if and when he bothered to meet with them. Nor did he much value the advice of friends (– friends?) and political partners. It brought him down. Think and emulate J.F. Kennedy’s open administration, in which numerous perspectives were brought to the President’s discussion table, without fear or intimidation.


And, disregard much of what the Leftist media will write about you, especially columnists. Especially when they begin criticizing your moderation and caution.


* Thou shalt not steal. Do not pilfer from the public purse – not for personal gain (reference: Arye Deri) nor for the sake of your pet institutions. Do not replace the hareidi raid on the state budget with robbery on behalf of the kibbutzim, or the Histadrut. Beware of robber-barons Avraham Shochat and Amir Peretz.


* Thou shalt not commit adultery. Netanyahu and Bill Clinton learned the hard way. Enough said.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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