Former prime minister Ehud Barak sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, saying he was “possessed” by a “nationalist spirit” that posed a threat to Israel’s future.
Speaking at a publicity event for a new book by former military intelligence chief Shlomo Gazit, Barak said that Netanyahu’s right-wing ideology endangered Israel’s existence.
“The nationalist spirit of the leaders of the right, chief among them Netanyahu, is the central threat today to Israel’s future, its identity, its cohesiveness, and its strength,” Barak said.
He charged that the current right-wing coalition was sowing division in Israeli society in the service of its “dark nationalist and populist” vision.
“The leaders of the right in the government headed by Netanyahu are afraid,” Barak said, and this fear causes them to “only see black and white, but primarily black,” and “nurtures a feeling of limitless victimhood.”
Barak also accused Netanyahu and members of his government of exploiting the recent wave of fires, some of which are believed to have been caused by Arab arsonists, to incite against Israel’s Arab population.
“It is clear and agreed upon that arsonists and inciters of arson need to be dealt with with an iron hand,” he said, but cautioned that those behind the arson “do not represent Arab Israelis or the Palestinian people,” Haaretz reported him as saying.
Barak pointed to the assistance provided by Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinians in helping to extinguish the fires that broke out across Israel over the past week, as well as the numerous Israeli Arab families who hosted Jewish residents of areas that were evacuated.
Barak has been one of Netanyahu’s most vociferous critics since leaving politics in 2013. His last government post was as defense minister in Netanyahu’s government from 2009 to 2013.
In a September Washington Post op-ed, Barak accused Netanyahu of “reckless conduct” that purportedly damaged Israel’s strategic position and threatened its existence, and said Israel could have obtained a more favorable military aid package from the US if not for Netanyahu’s fraught relations with US President Barack Obama.