Ehud Barak has announced his retirement from politics.
I don’t buy it for a moment. We’ve been here before.
By rights, Barak’s political career should have been over for good after his humiliating electoral defeat in February 2001. At the time, he said he was taking a break from politics. But he omitted the word “mini” before “break”. After just a few days, he came back to join Ariel Sharon’s newly-formed unity government.
Israeli politicians always come back.
They might leave to go on lucrative lecture tours; begin prison sentences; whatever, but they come back. Israeli politicians don’t do resigning. With very few exceptions, being elected a member of the Knesset is a job for life.
So it’s premature to say we’ve seen the last of Ehud Barak in Israel’s political landscape.
Our lawmakers clearly need help in recognising when it’s time to go, and I’ve devised a solution. We should adapt the much-vaunted Arab concept of the hudna to Israeli politics.
A properly conducted hudna allows people in conflict to have a temporary truce – ideally a long period of calm – to get used to change without having to sign permanent agreements first.
Perhaps our politicians would agree to go more readily if they didn’t have to utter the fateful words: “I’m retiring for good,” but instead could declare a prolonged timeout from the Knesset during which they’d have the opportunity to slowly become used to life away from government.
In honor of Barak, this process would be called the ehudna.
As Israelis know from bitter experience, the hudna has been used by Palestinians to regroup forces and come back stronger. There’s no guarantee that Israeli lawmakers won’t take advantage of the ehudna to plot their return to the Knesset, but at least they will have an enforced period of time away from government.
The upside of this groundbreaking concept for Barak? As his career – maybe – comes to an end, the ehudna will ensure that his name is perpetuated in Israeli politics.