Ehud Barak on…

Ehud Barak.

’VISITING Australia for the JNF 2018 annual campaign, Ehud Barak, Israeli statesman and soldier, sat down with The AJN for a wide-ranging interview, during which the former PM declined to categorically rule out another tilt at Israel’s prime ministership.

Israel’s 10th prime minister stated he was “really worried about the directions we’re heading in”, after slamming Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked before he set out for Australia.

Ahead of his trip, Barak had condemned Shaked’s comments that if Israel’s High Court overturned the controversial nation-state law, it would be an “earthquake”, describing her remarks as “proto-fascist”. He had also accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “skewing Zionism”.

In Australia, the former Israeli Labour Party politician would only say of Shaked that “under the separation of powers, a minister should not threaten the Supreme Court” and that the nation-state legislation “is a great gift to BDS supporters”.

Asked if he would make another bid to lead Israel, Barak reflected, “I’d prefer not [to run]. But you can’t rule out anything in politics. Never say never.”

Urging the Israeli government to look beyond Palestinian intransigence to find a peace deal, he said, “Peace is like a tango – it takes two. The fact that the other side, for whatever reason, doesn’t want peace, doesn’t mean that we have to be frightened or paralysed by it.

“And if for Israel, in order to remain Jewish and democratic, it’s necessary to delineate, then let’s define a line which will include all our security interests,” he said.

Barak is encouraged by US President Donald Trump “building on the common interests of the moderates in the region”, adding, “we have to be much more assertive in shaping this regional alliance … But this alliance cannot fly without Israel being ready to deal more seriously with the Palestinian aspects of the conflict”.

Awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service and four Chief of Staff citations, Barak is jointly the most decorated soldier in Israel history. He served in commando operations of the elite Sayeret Matkal in the 1970s and as IDF chief of general staff, and has been Israel’s defence and foreign minister, and prime minister, serving in the top job from 1999 to 2001.

At the time of going to press, Barak was set to speak in Melbourne on JNF’s projects in the Negev at last night’s JNF Victoria annual dinner, before heading to JNF events in Perth on September 2 and Sydney on September 4.

PETER KOHN