Here comes Bibi always ready for a challenge. Today he announced that he is ready to take on all comers. And he is definitely not afraid of taking on Barak who he lost to in 1999. At the time Bibi lost for two reasons, he was considered too hard a hard liner, and there were many scandals surrounding his administration. Barak on the other hand is seen as someone who tried to give away too much (including the temple mount) to make peace. If these two guys are the candidates (Kadima is going to die a slow painful death) it is going to be a fight for the middle. Unfortunately, while I think that each of them is a better choice than Olemrt, I fear that neither of the two ghosts from the political past have what it takes to lead Israel in these difficult times.

Netanyahu: I’m not afraid of competing against Barak

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he was not worried about the possibility that he could run up against former prime minister Ehud Barak in the next elections.

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Netanyahu, who lost to Barak in the 1999 general elections, reiterated that he did not fear a re-run of events.

“I am not afraid of competing against Barak, Ami Ayalon, Ophir Paz-Pines, Danny Yatom or Amir Peretz,” said Netanyahu.

“The Likud’s main objective is to return the hundreds of thousands of voters who went along with [former prime minister Ariel] Sharon and voted for Kadima,” said the chairman’s office.

“The differences between the candidates are so vast that Netanyahu is convinced he will win the elections,” added his office.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog claimed in an interview on Monday with Army Radio that Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations Malcom Hoenlein said that Barak should return to the defense ministry because of his close ties with US Defense Minister Robert Gates.

Barak has received endorsements in recent days from ministers Binyamin Ben Eliezer and Shalom Simhon, and on Monday from Herzog himself, but the surprise endorsement from Hoenlein is the first time that an international Jewish leader has come forward in support of Barak’s comeback attempt.

“The very fact that he is close friends with Gates is reason enough to bring him back to the defense ministry,” Hoenlein said, according to Herzog.

Herzog said in the interview that he supported Barak because he believed that he had learned from his mistakes and that he was the best man to lead the party under the current circumstances.