Ex-army boss manoeuvres to succeed Peres

PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

In sharp contrast to the haverings of General Colin Powell, there is seldom any doubt about the political ambitions of former military leaders in Israel. But even Ehud Barak, when he stepped down as chief of staff in 1994, can hardly have expected that in less than a year he would be Foreign Minister and the man best placed to succeed Shimon Peres as Prime Minister.

The speed of his rise has been accelerated by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, another former chief of staff, on 4 November. Mr Barak was already interior minister and a rising star in the Labour Party, whose leadership has been held alternately by Mr Rabin and Mr Peres since 1974. After the murder, Mr Peres, 72, decided to strengthen his government by appointing the general, aged 53, to a top post. The Defence Ministry was ruled out, probably because it would have given him too much power.

In three years as Israel's top general, Mr Barak enjoyed automatic respect from the media, but this popularity may not last. Raised on a kibbutz and with a degree in systems analysis from Stanford, California, he has the jaunty self-confidence born of a successful 35-year military career. His political abilities remain largely unknown, although observers have long noted his determination to be Prime Minister.

Peace talks with the Palestinians will remain in the hands of Mr Peres and Yossi Beilin, 47, the cabinet's leading dove and architect of the Oslo agreement, who joins the Prime Minister's office. The insignificance of his last job, as minister of economic planning, was underlined by the fact that the ministry was abolished on his departure.

Into Mr Barak's old job at the Interior Ministry, which he held only for a few months, goes Haim Ramon, 44, the other contender for the Labour succession. His career has been badly damaged by Rabin's death. Just as Mr Barak will be the candidate of the right of the party, Mr Ramon will seek support from the centre and left. He has, indeed, only just returned to the party after being expelled when he ran successfully against the official candidate to take over the Histadrut trade union federation.

Mr Ramon, who comes from a poor background in Jaffa, was a successful lawyer before he became a politician as a protege of Mr Peres. He switched to Rabin in the leadership battle on the grounds that only he could win power from Likud in 1992. It is not something Mr Peres is likely to forget. On Tuesday, when Mr Peres read out his new cabinet list, he inadvertently omitted Mr Ramon's name. When this was pointed out, he clapped his hand to his head in surprise and said: "Oh, Haim Ramon, of course." Mr Ramon laughed, but may fear that the Freudian slip suggests hostility on the part of Mr Peres.

The message coming out of the formation of the new cabinet is that Israeli politics is back to normal after the shock of the assassination. The Labour Party may regret that Mr Peres did not take the opportunity to hold an election, which would have turned on accusations of right-wing responsibility for the verbal violence that preceded Rabin's murder. Already the right- wing Likud under Binyamin Netanyahu has regained self-confidence.

Mr Peres has also spent time cultivating the religious parties. Meretz, Labour's left-wing partner in the coalition, said it was being given a veto power over further army redeployment on the West Bank. Mr Beilin denied this, saying: "We will not give anyone veto over the permanent agreement - over an agreement with Syria or the Palestinians."

Mr Peres appears to hanker after Labour's old alliance with the religious parties, which kept it in power until 1977. But it is unlikely to be revived. Mr Peres did appoint one rabbi, Yehuda Amital, as minister without portfolio, but his failure to win election to the Knesset shows that almost all religious Israelis are now on the right.

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition