Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak reentered politics on Wednesday, announcing the formation of a new party dedicated to toppling incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and adding a further imponderable to the election campaign.
Barak, 77, who was also IDF chief of staff and defense minister, launched his campaign with a war cry:
“The Netanyahu regime must be felled, not saved,” he said, referring to the second round of elections, as well as the reported attempts at cancelling them in order to form a unity government.
“Netanyahu has reached the end [of his career]. Bibi this is your last chance to go home on your own,” he warned, urging him to resign and spare the country the “chaos” of an unprecedented election rerun.
“Save yourself from prison,” he said at a press conference in Tel Aviv.
Barak addressed an appeal for unity against PM Netanyahu to other former generals now in politics: “To those in Blue and White, my brothers in arms, those I commanded in the past, Benny [Gantz], Bogie (Moshe Yaalon], Gabi (Ashkenazi] and my good friend Yair Lapid, I tell you that our rivalry is with Netanyahu and his way. I call up everyone to whom this state is dear.”
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yair Golan, who has reportedly been helping Barak lay the groundwork for his return, said, “I stand here because I must. After 38 years of service, I could go to lectures in Israel and abroad and be with my family. Instead, I take upon myself this difficult journey. I feel a deep obligation to embark on this journey to repair Israeli society. Half of the people are being delegitimized.”
The Likud party said in response to Barak, “We are not interfering in how the left divides its mandates between Ehud Barak and Lapid and Gantz.”
Brushing aside Barak’s vehement condemnations of Netanyahu, MK Gideon Saar (Likud) said: “Barak’s well-known style does not cover the main point: The dispute is between two ways: Where Barak is aiming to lead Israel, we have already seen it, and unlike others, he does not hide it: Back to the road of retreats and surrender of the heart of our country,” Saar wrote on Twitter.
The reaction from his sought-after allies was less than promising.
“Only a strong centrist party like Blue and White can win, and any split in the camp harms the effort to defeat Netanyahu,” Gantz said at his own press conference in Tel Aviv, earlier in the day, with apparent knowledge of Barak’s forthcoming announcement.
MK Yoaz Hendel (Blue and White) said: “I would be happy to see a leftist bloc with Meretz, Labor, and Barak, it’s better for them to unite, to the right of them, Blue & White, will stand against Bibi at any price,” Hendel wrote on his Twitter account.
From Labor, though, the response was more welcoming. MK Amir Peretz said: “I congratulate Ehud Barak on his return to politics,” he said, adding that “democratic Israel will stand up to win the elections and bring our country to a new path, to social justice and peace.”