Every deputy minister is a king, and there is no king in Israel. On Shabbat they fan out around the country, the ministers and their deputies, from one morning of interviews to the next, scattering their words like pollen. And by the afternoon edition we'll learn from the news what the situation is, where we stand.
Danny Ayalon is among the deputies, and he made his way to Be'er Sheva last Shabbat. And a deputy like him is not one to miss an opportunity: He tore apart the Syrian president and his latest opinion. Bashar Assad, he said, does not want peace, he is lying; he is interested in the process but not in the result. The Israeli reaction quickly took flight, gliding all over the world. After being put in his place, Assad will no longer waste so many words on peace being his "strategic choice." There is no peace, nor will there be in the near future, and we can stop worrying.
Who is this Ayalon, who pulls such a swift and skillful reaction from his sleeve, which is seen in the region and beyond as Israel's official reaction? Oh, yes, we just remembered: This man was our ambassador in Washington. And what impression did he leave there? We just remembered, mainly because of his behavior at home and in office.
Danny is now an elected public official, and he was not elected by just any public. One man chose him. Had he stood on his own merits, without the Lieberman umbrella, not even 100 people would have voted for him. But now he decides on things that are of major importance, issues of war and peace. We can allow ourselves to laugh, because we know how politics are conducted here. But others treat a deputy foreign minister seriously; they are certain that his words were carefully weighed in the important ministries, and that the deputy was tasked with delivering them. After all, nobody will believe that such a complete and specific viewpoint was released only because Danny the chatterbox spent an hour in Be'er Sheva.
I visited Egypt once, and found President Mubarak worried: a belligerent statement by Minister Rafael Eitan had been published that week. He had not proposed to bomb the Aswan Dam, but his suggestion was of a similar spirit. Mubarak was convinced that if a minister - and a former chief of staff at that - said something, there was no question that he was speaking officially. I had to convince him otherwise: It's only Raful, I said. I'm not sure I convinced him.
Once we established two confidence-building rules in advance of negotiations: first, that the Arab leaders would speak Arabic rather than English - so their public would hear, understand and internalize. And second - that they would express their desire for peace publicly rather than in private. Assad is meeting these criteria, and in spite of that, he is receiving a failing grade; "He's lying," say everyone who see other people's souls, who are afraid to see him at the conference table.
And look at the defective people who are rejecting him: Those who have been dragging their feet for at least 15 years, and who got cold feet a moment before a decision; those who travel to Washington with a silent prayer - "Eli, Eli (My God)/ May they never end/ The sand and the sea ..." - the sea with its high waves and the sand they throw in people's eyes.
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