BARAK'S CABINET is an extreme disappointment. When Israelis voted for change, they were not seeking mediocrity, insecurity and megalomania. The impression Barak projects by these appointments is not of a leader searching for the best people for each job, but for ways to keep rivals out of positions of influence. In politics, competence, let alone excellence, cannot always be a deciding force. But Barak seems to regard his own cabinet and the Knesset not as instruments of governance but threats to be divided and conquered.
ARAFAT IS awaiting the "new saviour", General Barak, who some believe will send the "larks of peace" over the Middle East. But Barak is not going to act in accordance with Arafat's wishes. Certainly, he will not accept Arafat''s "conception" of the peace process. Barak has made it amply clear that his approach to "peace" with the Palestinians doesn't differ substantially from that of Netanyahu. The Palestinians must raise their voices against this expected sell-out.
ADVICE TO new ministers: Your commitment to Israel's fate must always take precedence over your loyalty to Barak. Be not afraid, my servant Jacob! If you have the feeling that something foul is afoot, leak that information to the Fourth Estate, the media, which is the last bastion in the Israeli democratic system of checks and balances. Because, even if you act as submissively as Bibi's ministers did, you will still be unable to shirk your responsibility. Beware of turning yourselves into mere lackeys. (Yoel Marcus)