Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Bibi-Barak mutual support axis ,leading the country - "is good for the State of Israel,"

(Mazal Mualem-Haaretz).The first call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made after U.S. President Barack Obama completed his speech in Cairo last June was to his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, who was in Washington at the time. Calls to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Likud ministers were made only later.

During a long conversation, Barak and Netanyahu analyzed the implications of the speech and formulated the main points of Israel's response, adopting the elements that were positive for Israel and avoiding the negative parts, and sidestepping a possible confrontation. In Washington Barak was given the task of relaying moderate signals to the U.S. administration and attempting to soften the hostility that the White House had exhibited after Netanyahu became prime minister.

This form of joint action between the Netanyahu-Barak team has repeated itself since at every significant event, overt or covert, starting with Netanyahu's Bar-Ilan University speech, which was preceded by a meeting between the two, all the way to the budget cuts that favored defense allotments. Ministers say that there is obvious harmony between the two during cabinet meetings, with completely coordinated positions and mutual support for the ideas raised by the other. Nothing of the atmosphere that characterized the antagonism between Barak and Ehud Olmert is evident. In fact, this sort of harmonious relationship between a prime minister and a defense minister has not been seen in Israeli politics for years.

Now, the great political rivals are functioning as a joint axis that is leading the country. They are behaving as a closed forum in which they discuss the most sensitive issues pertaining to security and diplomacy, and have contributed considerably to the government's stability, which is expected to continue in the coming months. Moreover, the impact of the Netanyahu-Barak team is expected to become all the more critical as they determine Israel's policy on the Iranian threat, the peace process with the Palestinians and the character of relations with the U.S. administration.

The two meet often and for many hours. They talk daily, and meet several times a week, during cabinet meetings, and at the end of the week they hold a private meeting at the prime minister's official office in Jerusalem. There they sit and talk for two-three hours about security and diplomatic issues, but also about politics. In this context they protect each other. Barak may be the head of a divided party, but as the chairman of a party of the left, he serves as a shock absorber for Netanyahu vis-a-vis the international community, and especially the Americans. Netanyahu has given him the task of talks with the U.S. envoy George Mitchell, and also dispatches him on "softening" forays.

This harmony "is good for the State of Israel," says Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), who brought the two together after the recent election