War Declared on Barak
Jewish Wars Heat Up Jerusalem’s Winter
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A few readers approached me with a similar complaint. According to them, several of my analyses on Israel emphasize inner Jewish Wars, while barely mentioning players abroad. “What is David Cameron’s position on this,” they would ask, eager to know what the UK is about to do about Israel’s eternal transgressions. Henry Kissinger probably is not among my readers; but if he was, he would probably agree with me. Many years ago he said that Israeli politics are almost exclusively internal. Everything must be analyzed through the magnifying lenses of the Jewish Wars, other things have little influence.
One of the most dramatic instances of this principle was the Altalena Affair. In the 1940s, Ben Gurion and Begin fought over arms and ammunition smuggled by the Irgun aboard the Altalena. Ben Gurion feared the creation of a Fifth Column within the IDF, loyal to Begin rather than to the chain of command. Thus, he issued an ultimatum to the ship. The taunt was refused, and the subsequent armed conflict between the two forces led to the Altalena sinking and the death of sixteen Irgun and three IDF men. Nothing else mattered to all involved; neither the ongoing war with Arab countries nor the shaky international position of Ben Gurion’s fiefdom. The only thing that counted was the Ben Gurion-Begin war. Even now, mentioning the event in Israeli circles is considered bad taste.
Examples of these inner wars abound. Earlier this year, I reported in Jewish Wars on the words of Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolfa, who had defined IDF soldiers as “Terrorists in Black” for participating in operations against West Bank Jewish settlers (he referred to the soldiers’ clothes during special operations). That was the result of the destruction of Shimon Weismann’s house. Shimon was a young soldier at a training company of the IDF’s Kfir Brigade. He lived in one of the houses destroyed by the Israeli administration at the Gilad Farm. Eventually, all the people involved in this event were either criminals by international laws or terrorists by UN resolution; yet, they care only about hurting each other with undeniable truths.
Steinitz Declares War
More than sixty years after the Altalena sank, another Jewish war was declared, this time in an interview that appeared in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper which is widely considered to be the Voice of the Shin Beth.
“I have declared war on Ehud Barak on the issue of transparency and control and it will happen, if not now, then later through Knesset legislation.”
The speaker was Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s current Minister of Finance. Member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, Steinitz is one of the key ministers in the government. Relatively young, his sharp statement is a clear sign he expects sometime in the future to replace the leader of his party. However, there is more behind it.
The recipient of this war declaration is not an innocent lamb. In “After me the deluge!”, I described recent political manipulations by Ehud Barak, who is desperately fighting for his political future. After leaving the Labor Party at the beginning of 2011 in order to keep his post as Minister of Defense in Netanyahu’s government, he has little chance to gather enough voters in order to stay Minister of Defense after the following elections. That is, unless he manages to portray himself as a war hero. Apparently, this last is the motivation for his relentless push towards an attack on Iran. In citations brought in that article, Barak acknowledges there is no chance Iran would attack. Simply, Iran has never attacked another country; they are too civilized and rational for that. Hence, Barak is searching for the opportunity to revive his political career at the cost of countless lives. Ehud Barak has positioned himself as a dangerous and unworthy leader. “After me the deluge!” is the full extent of Barak’s ideology.
Steinitz war seems oddly defined: “transparency and control” seem hardly a tropic suitable for a young minister attacking one of Israel’s leading politicians. It probably means he is being silently backed by Netanyahu. If understanding the mechanics of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, then this attack is obviously a deadly one. If Steinitz wins, Barak would end out of the Knesset and the government. If Barak wins, Steinitz would still be portrayed as a courageous leader; a subsequent fight between these two would inevitably take place in the future.
Israel’s Ministry of Defense Clockwork
At the very center of Tel Aviv – an area known as the “Kirya,” meaning the “town” – is the imposing needle of the Ministry of Defense, known also as the “Marganit Building.” It was built by a foreign contractor since Israel lacks technologies needed for building such structures. Underneath the building is the infamous “Bor” (hole in Hebrew), an underground bunker from where the Israeli army is run when there is no war. From a sumptuous office on the fifth floor, the Israeli Minister of Defense runs most of the country. Ehud Barak loves his office.
The ministry is different from others not only for being in Tel Aviv instead of Jerusalem. It is different because there is no control over its budget. Even the Mossad and the Shin Bet are subject to inspection and control from the Finance Ministry's controller-general. The Mossad director said this arrangement facilitates savings and efficiencies, because everyone knows someone is checking and commenting. However, the Ministry of Defense is sovereign over its moneys. Finance minister Steinitz claims that if the ministry could audit the army's salaries budget, a billion shekels a year could be saved from that alone. That’s a fortune even for the Rothschild’s.
In fact, the Ministry of Defense is a country within a country, like the Histadrut Workers Union until roughly twenty years ago. The Minister of Defense can direct and redirect budgets as per his political wishes. This fact is even more dramatic when realizing this ministry runs and controls all civil affairs in the West Bank, replacing there all other ministries through its Civil Administration body. This is an immense source of power. Barak can create or demolish settlements. He can confiscate Palestinian lands at wish. He can raise salaries to the largest employer in Israel: the IDF. This means his capability to redirect budgets without control can be used (and it is) to amass political power. Moreover, international contracts and bid are a chunky cherry atop this already generous piece of cake. Israel’s Ministry of Defense is only marginally weaker than the State of Israel itself.
Netanyahu can’t be truly happy about this, despite the ongoing weakening of Barak. Yet, he can’t cut the ministry budget or implement organizational changes that would weaken this quasi-state threatening his rule. The solution was clear. He sent Steinitz to impose control on the Ministry of Defense budget; eventually this would amount to an indirect cut on that ministry’s budget and to a further weakening of Ehud Barak.
Oddly enough, in this extraordinary move, Netanyahu proved possessing not only a surprising degree of sophistication, but also as being a significant force in the blocking of an attack on Iran. Iran is secondary here; the Jewish Wars may define the future of an attack on it by Israel or the USA. Yet, given the circumstances, something must be asked. Is Netanyahu an Iranian Spy?
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