Barak’s back in bid to oust Bibi

Ehud Barak announcing the establishment of his new political party. Photo: JTA/Flash 90

THE centre-left just received the boost it needs to defeat Bibi, Ehud Barak has claimed, announcing his political comeback.

The former military chief of staff and prime minister is in the process of forming his own party and trying to integrate it into an alliance of left-wing factions. He is oozing confidence, and declared: “Netanyahu has reached the end.”

Barak is trying to form alliances between his as-yet unnamed party and other factions, including Labour, which he used to lead, Blue and White, and Meretz, and give the left-wing a clear win in the September election. 

He has recruited Yitzhak Rabin’s granddaughter Noa Rothman as a candidate on his list, in a move that is expected to position him as heir to the legacy of Rabin, the man who got him involved in politics. “I’m taking this path for the sake of my generation and the sake of my children,” Rothman said. 

Barak wants to prevent a repeat run of the April election, when Likud got to try to form a government despite being tied with Blue and White in terms of Knesset seats. This was because overall the right wing was stronger than the left. This time, Barak is determined that the centre and left will be stronger, and says he will not sit in a government with Netanyahu. 

Barak has criticised Blue and White for being lacklustre, but is understood to be attempting an alliance with its leaders. The senior Blue and White politician Gabi Ashkenazi – who like Barak is a former IDF chief of staff – said that there is “no rivalry” between his party and Barak’s. He is not ruling out a union.

Analysts are divided as to whether Barak’s entry into the political fray will strengthen the centre-left or just split the votes across more parties, and make it less likely that any single party will defeat Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. 

As Barak makes his comeback, other changes are afoot on the Israeli left. The Meretz party has elected a new leader, Nitzan Horowitz, spurning the incumbent Tamar Zandberg. The choice marks a dialling down of the Jewish–Arab coexistence theme that Zandberg put at the forefront, and a greater emphasis on Meretz trying to partner with other parties on the Jewish left. 

As The AJN went to press, votes were being counted in Labour’s primaries. Avi Gabbay, who led the party through its disastrous campaign for the April election, stepped down. 

The race is dominated by two leaders of Israel’s 2011 social protests, Itzik Shmuli and Stav Shaffir, and the veteran politician Amir Peretz. 

The three all say they have what it takes to revive the fortunes of Labour, which now holds just six of the Knesset’s 120 seats.