Wake up, Mr. Prime Minister

By Natan Sharansky

(November 3) - On Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Barak made a tragic mistake. With the formation of a national unity government well within his grasp, he chose instead to buy a few more weeks of time to explore the possibility of renewing negotiations with a man who has all but officially declared war on the State of Israel.

Not wanting to complicate his Herculean diplomatic efforts to "end the hundred year conflict" with the Palestinians overnight, Barak has stubbornly refused to allow the military to take decisive action against a violent uprising whose aim is nothing less than the destruction of the Jewish state.

With his people under attack and his enemies emboldened by the day, Barak and his minions pathetically talk of the need to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.

While defenders of the government claim that "there is no alternative to Oslo," the Palestinian leadership is busy using every rock, bullet, and bomb they have to prove them wrong. While we are convincing ourselves that it is only a matter of time before we will be back at the negotiating table, the Palestinians leadership are convincing their own people that it is only a matter of time before the Jews will be backed into the sea.

Ironically, the man who has repeatedly said that he would never sacrifice "the security, the unity, and the sanctity of Israel" in an agreement with the Palestinians has sacrificed all of these without an agreement. In his desperate attempt to leave the door open for peace, he has undermined an Israeli deterrence that took decades to build, decided not to unite the country during a national emergency, and failed to protect Jewish holy sights in the face of mob violence.

Sadly, after weeks of taking the moral high ground by claiming that all who opposed his efforts to forge national unity were placing their own interests above the interests of the country, the prime minister has done precisely that.

Not willing to retreat from the dangerous positions he took at Camp David, Barak and his government have proven that they are willing to sacrifice everything on the altar of the so-called peace process.

However disappointed I may be, I cannot say that I have been caught completely by surprise. Before he left for Camp David to make decisions that would effect this nation for generations to come, I pleaded with him to form a national unity government and resigned from the Interior Ministry when he declined to do so. I explained to him that a peace process that would affect the identity of an entire people must never be led by only half the nation.

But just as he refused then to recognize the cardinal importance of uniting the people of Israel in the pursuit of peace, he now fails to recognize the essential need for unity at such a perilous hour. One can only conclude from his recent negotiations with the Likud, that he saw a national unity government not as an instrument for forging consensus within the nation, but merely as a means of ensuring his own political survival.

Those on the Left who adamantly reject any attempt to join forces with Likud leader Ariel Sharon in order to keep open the option of making an agreement with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat have effectively said that a man who has devoted his life to the security of his nation is a less suitable partner than a man who had devoted his life to terrorizing it.

No doubt, the prime minister believes that when the sands in Shas's hourglass run out, he can always return to the "national unity" option. But though I have called for the formation of a national unity government since the day I entered political life, my confidence in Ehud Barak's ability to lead such a government has been severely shaken.

Rather than crafting speeches labeling all those who oppose him "petty politicians," our prime minister should hear the call to battle from without and the cry of leadership from within. This is not the time for striking backroom political deals, nor the time to send emissaries to our enemies.

This is the time to unite the nation, and take any and every action necessary to defend our country and its citizens.

The writer is the leader of Yisrael Ba'aliya.
©Jerusalem Post
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