In Ramat Gan there is a school called Bleich High School.
Twenty-four years ago, before the Likud under the leadership
of Menachem Begin took control of the government for the
first time, mock elections were held at the school, and the
students voted in favor of Begin, foreseeing the country's
first political takeover. Ever since then the school has
acquired a reputation as a barometer for election
Although in 1999 Bleich students successfully predicted that
Barak would defeat Netanyahu, there have also been many bad
calls along the way. In 1996, for instance, Bleich students
voted for Peres but the people voted to bring in
Last week the mock elections at Bleich were held. Most of
the students at this prestigious school hail from North Tel
Aviv, left-leaning homes, making the results quite
predictable. Unlike all of the surveys and forecasts, at
Bleich Barak won by a respectable margin. As far as Bliech
High School is concerned, Barak is to remain in office.
Prime Minister of Bleich. The truth is that in all recent
elections, Bleich just votes for the Left. Sometimes they
are right, and sometimes they are wrong. Just like every
Meanwhile senior Likud Party officials are angry with Sharon
and his advisors for allowing Sharon to go to other schools
like Bliech in left-wing strongholds in the Gush Dan region,
such as schools where kibbutz children are enrolled. After
every lukewarm reception with confounding questions posed by
students, Likud officials have had to deal with the
subsequent reports broadcast on television and radio. This
has turned into a valuable tool for Barak, free of charge.
Whereas if Sharon had gone to development towns or to
schools in other sympathetic areas, he could have generated
favorable news coverage and come across as being well-liked
by the nation's youth.
According to leading figures in the Likud Party, such
conduct points to inept campaign management. Staff members
do not perform the necessary groundwork before Sharon
arrives at a given place, they do not do their homework and
they do not operate efficiently. They improvise and their
work is less than thorough.
The critics say that although Sharon and his staff have been
committing every conceivable error, Barak's blunders serve
as a counterbalance. His delegates sit in Taba and hold
talks with the Palestinians will bullets are flying; the
public does not appreciate such conduct and is unwilling to
buy this bill of goods. This comes across as another flip-
flop, perhaps his last before he leaves the stage.
Those who have forgotten would do well to recall that
Barak's downfall began with the story of the transport of
the power plant components on Shabbos. At the time, Barak
had a coalition consisting of almost 80 Knesset members and
everything seemed to be fine. No one dreamed that in another
year all that would start to unravel and eventually
collapse, and that he would be forced to run for reelection
with a gap of nearly 20 percentage points in the polls just
a week before the elections.
But Barak's undoing was the series of mistakes he has made
all along the way, which are clearly epitomized by the
component transport affair, when he arrogantly announced: I
am not a push-button and I can't be blackmailed. The
component will be transported on Shabbos. I will make the
decision, and no one can intimidate me -- including the five
MK's from United Torah Jewry, who gave notice that if the
component was transported on Shabbos, they would resign from
Forget the fact that since then Barak has submitted to
blackmail time and again--the five MK's from United Torah
Jewry carried out their threat and resigned from the
coalition following directives by gedolei Torah. The
incident marked the beginning of his ruin, and his power
structure started tumbling like a line of dominos. Woe to
the proud, for they tread on dangerous ground.
Since when does a prime minister interfere in matters
pertaining to power plant components, and whether they are
to be transported on Shabbos or on Sunday or on Wednesday?
Is this what a prime minister should be spending his time
on? Is it worth losing a faction consisting of five Knesset
members--five valuable fingers--from the coalition?
In a subsequent confrontation, Barak's haughtiness was
responsible for severing his partnership with Shas. Any
neophyte prime minister would have spent no more than two
hours over the matter of the 20-30 million shekel budget for
Shas' educational network. What is 30 million shekels
compared to Shas' 17 mandates, which are critical to the
coalition? But Barak insisted on imparting his own
educational values on Shas, in order to denigrate the party
and to prove that he was running the show; he alone would
determine when they would receive the funds and how they
would receive them, if at all. Eventually he was left
without their support, without a government and without a
What does all this have to do with the elections scheduled
to take place four days from now?
Last week Ehud Barak paid a visit to Nazareth. He toured the
Arab sector in an effort to try to bring back their lost
votes. As of now, all of the leading figures in the Arab
sector are calling on Arab Israelis to boycott the upcoming
elections as payment for the government's conduct during
demonstrations by Arab Israelis four months ago in which 13
people were killed.
Before Barak's arrival, Ministers Vilnai and Beilin toiled
to prepare for the visit. They pressed notable Arab figures
to forgive Barak and offer their support, if for no other
reason than that Ariel Sharon is the alternative, with all
that implies. The Arabs would not buy this; they assembled a
reception of loud, angry people waving denunciatory signs
and posters showing pictures of the victims. Barak was
whisked away through a side door into Nazareth's main hall,
where a relatively small group of people were waiting, with
no well-known Arab public figures among them.
Inside the hall, during the course of his speech, Barak
expressed regret over the events in which 13 Arabs were
killed. Regret, but no apologies; he was unwilling to ask
forgiveness. Before the appearance his advisors had begged
him to apologize, because if he had agreed to do so, it
would have helped them bring in more people and soften Arab
conduct toward him, but Barak refused. In this case, once
again, his pride would not allow him to fully admit his
error, to say, "I'm sorry, I made a mistake, forgive me."
Without a massive turnout of Arab voters in favor of Barak,
he has no chance of winning the elections. Barak knows this,
but nevertheless his pride will not allow him to
Who's the Primitive?
The Labor Party airs numerous commercials warning that war
is imminent if Sharon rises to power. They invoke memories
of Lebanon and point to the fact that Sharon has never
supported any peace agreement. Meanwhile they hide the fact
that Sharon was responsible for evacuating Yamit and
implementing the peace agreement with Egypt. Likewise, they
fail to bring to the public's attention his warm relations
with the Jordanians, and the fact that following the Mishal
Affair, the only Israeli figure who was wanted in Jordan was
Sharon, due to the many problems he solved in Israeli-
Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami is opposed to making use of
the story of the Lebanese War against Sharon. He claims this
goes almost 20 years back in history, and is ill-remembered.
No one really cares. Ben Ami believes that commercials
should present Barak's path and Sharon's path, side by
In this context, Ben Ami was quoted as saying, "In Europe
they would have thrown rotten tomatoes at Arik Sharon.
Unfortunately we are a primitive people and are willing to
swallow this hodgepodge of slogans."
But just who are the primitives: a large sector of the
Israeli public, which is unwilling to forgive Barak for all
the blunders he has committed over the last year and a half;
for taking the reins over a country in decent condition and
bringing about a political, economic, and social decline,
along with a degeneration in its state of security; for
receiving such a strong mandate in the previous elections,
and wasting it like a rookie and failing every test; for
setting a new record by having to resign barely fifteen
months after setting up a government; or Ben Ami, who
maintains that Barak is splendid, and deserves to be
reelected for his tremendous efforts and achievements over
the last year and a half?
The public Mr. Ben Ami is referring to may not remember
Lebanon because that was 20 years ago, but it does recall
Barak's deeds of here and now, over the last year.