Barak adds insult to injury

The complete unraveling of Ehud Barak continues.

After a week of negotiations with Kadima leader-elect Tzipi Livni in which he agreed to add Labor to the coalition only upon earning himself the redundant and vain title of “senior deputy prime minister,” Barak has lowered his standing as defense minister by insulting the family of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.

On Sunday, while Schalit’s father Noam and thousands of supporters demonstrated at Kerem Shalom on the Gaza border, Barak criticized the rally, saying that such displays only raise the asking price for the young captive.

A more prudent move would have been to keep silent. Or to say that, while the Schalit family’s resolve and the support of the public are inspiring, the real work to affect Gilad’s release is being done quietly, away from the public eye.

Instead, Barak has put himself squarely in opposition, not only to the Schalits, but to any parent of a soldier who can imagine their son or daughter suffering the same intolerable fate as Gilad Schalit. Now, that isn’t worthy of a self-respecting defense minister – and it’s entirely unbecoming for a military hero of Barak’s magnitude. But the insinuation that the Schalits, by demanding that the government under which Gilad Schalit served perform its duty to return him to his homeland, might be lengthening their son’s captivity or even endangering his well-being – that is contemptible.

Gilad Schalit has been held captive in the Gaza Strip for more than two years. And his parents, in a sense, have been held captive with him. Yet they have kept their cool, showing more restraint and understanding for the complexity of the situation than just about anyone else would, in their shoes.

What the Schalits have done is to insist that their son not be forgotten. And they have reminded Ehud Olmert – and recently, Ehud Barak, as defense minister – that the ultimate responsibility for returning Gilad Schalit to his parents lies with them.

“You are responsible,” they say to Olmert and Barak. “You are responsible for the fate of our son.”

They say it calmly, with dignity.

To Ehud Barak, apparently, the sound is deafening. It must be squelched.

Friends and supporters of the Schalits have determined to protest Barak’s remarks outside his Tel Aviv home on Monday. The rally may very well make Barak uncomfortable – but if you’re going to be senior deputy prime minister, shouldn’t you be expect to be held accountable once in a while?


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