Barak’s bombshell: bad news for the Obama administration?

This being a holiday, we’re not hearing much from the Obama administration about today’s Jerusalem bombshell – the announcement Defense Minister Ehud Barak is leaving the Labor Party and forming his own.

But I don’t imagine they’re busy writing congratulatory messages to Barak, a man they once regarded as the most responsive, responsible member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet but who, according to numerous reports in the Israeli press, has fallen from grace.

Barak’s resignation from Labor while remaining in the government seems to ensure the stability of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and reduce the likelihood the PM will have to bring the more peace-process minded Kadima into the government – something administration officials have privately longed for.

It makes it less likely Netanyahu will be forced to dump his erratic, extreme foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

It would be a big setback to administration plans to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – except that those talks are on the fast track to nowhere anyway, so it probably won’t make much of a difference on that score. Whatever hopes the administration had that Barak would try to nudge Netanyahu toward a more active peace process were dashed months before today’s bombshell

And it’s probably the last nail in the coffin of the once-dominant Labor Party, which Barak lead in recent years – with pretty disastrous results. Party leaders say they hope that without the self-absorbed Barak at the helm, they will now be able to revive Labor as a genuine opposition party.

As they say, lots of luck.

Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff have a good take on Barak in today’s Tablet: he is the most despised man in Israeli politics, but he has made himself indispensable to Netanyahu.

“Winning through each reversal, the ever-bumbling, deeply unpopular Ehud Barak maneuvers to remain a political force in Israel and its leading voice to the West,” they write.

Also check out the Jerusalem Post’s Shmuel Rosner, who runs down winners and losers in the shakeup. One big winner: Netanyahu, who will no longer “have to listen to empty threats of unimportant Knesset members.”


About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.