Ehud Barak

The biggest loser? The peace process.

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The real drama of Israeli politics will occur after the votes are tallied.

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The former foreign minister returns to politics by forming a new centrist party.

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Pundits in Israel are still struggling to make sense of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s surprise announcement yesterday that, at age 70, he is retiring from politics. The move, like Barak’s January 2011 decision to leave Labor and start his own political party, caught everyone off guard.

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It has been said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu could have an effect on the U.S. elections. But the reverse is true as well.

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I never met Roger Fisher, who died last month, nor read his much-acclaimed book on negotiations, Getting To Yes. But I gather he was something of a legend around Harvard and in academic circles in the field of negotiating theory. His death prompted a number of warm pieces about academic negotiations studies, highlighting his role as something of an entrepreneur who devoted his life to searching out conflicts to be resolved and yeses to be gotten.

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The ultimate goal of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, the next round of which commences in Moscow on June 18, has always been the same: Determining whether Iran is willing to accept that its nuclear program must be credibly limited in a way that precludes it from being able to turn civil nuclear power into nuclear weapons. The collective approach of the 5+1—the five permanent members of the U.N.

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Last Tuesday, Israelis woke up to a new political reality. In the middle of the night, as the Knesset was voting to enact an early general election, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced a surprising deal with Shaul Mofaz, the recently elected leader of the main opposition party. All of a sudden, the snap election was called off and Mofaz’s Kadima party was part of the governing coalition. The deal was essentially about self-serving domestic politics; all the main actors (Netanyahu, Mofaz, and defense minister Ehud Barak) reaped rewards from the arrangement.

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The Visionary

If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.

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The Palestinians are in the process of seeking sovereignty from the United Nations, but in doing so, they are asking for more than what was offered them in any prior negotiation with Israel—including during the talks involving President Clinton and Ehud Barak in 2000 and 2001. Rather than more, it is imperative that the Palestinians get less. It is imperative to world peace that the Palestinians pay a price—even if it’s only a symbolic price—for rejecting the generous Clinton/Barak offer and responding to it with a second intifada in which 4,000 people were killed.

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