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Ami Ayalon is the next thing. A poll published at the weekend shows that about 50 percent of Israelis want him as defense minister. They are torn between a yearning for politicians who failed and political rookies about whom they know very little. Ayalon is "clean" and "direct," another one of the kind we love so much, promising to both have the cake and eat it, a man of peace and also Mr. Security. The hope that Ayalon is spreading is therefore another hope that will end up disappointing. The support for him is indicative of the vacuum created here.

An examination of his statements and views in recent years yields a confusing picture, if not to say a confused one. Someone who said a few years ago that he would not venture into politics is a candidate for prime minister. Someone who said in an interview with Maariv about three years ago that "the left must not come to power," and that "the left will not succeed in reaching an accord with the Palestinians. Only the Likud can evacuate settlements." He told Haaretz in an interview a year ago: "I will evacuate 60,000 settlers." Someone who said of himself that "he awoke in great pain from a dream" continues to think that the settlers "won for the state," and testifies that he has "an attitude of profound appreciation" toward them, defining them as "the pioneers of Zionism." Someone who only a year ago stated that Amir Peretz is "unequivocally" worthy of being prime minister, that he has all of the attributes for national leadership and "an exceptional ability to withstand pressure," and then became his bitter enemy, even before the war .But immediately after, Peretz did not choose him to be a minister - like the lowliest of opportunists. This man of peace, who did not make a loud and explicit call to respond to the challenge of peace that Syria placed at our doorstep, advocates keeping the settlement blocs and supports the separation fence.

And what is his position on negotiating with the new Palestinian unity government? He responded, through his media adviser: "We should aspire to conduct negotiations with Abu Mazen, who is the elected representative of the Palestinian public" - as if Hamas is not the "elected representative of the Palestinian public." For such positions, we have Ehud Olmert.

Ayalon was opposed to having his party quit the government when it was expanded to include Avigdor Lieberman, the person who once suggested appointing Ayalon as director of the Institute for the Study of Seas and Lakes. He did not oppose the recent war in Lebanon from the outset, only the ground operation. Always thinking small, he also supported the diplomatic plan of Tzipi Livni. This is the alternative, the white hope. As someone who says of himself that he is a certified animal trainer, Ayalon wants not only to train marine mammals, but also the Palestinians. At the same time, he is one of the two initiators of The People's Voice, of which nothing remains.

The frogman, the man of silence, Ayalon blurs his views on his Internet site so that it is impossible to know his intentions. "The goal we must aspire to is a reality of a stable interstate regional system," he explains to the voting public, ignoring the real questions on the agenda. And in regard to Syria: "To start from a perspective that distinguishes between political sovereignty and physical control of land." This is how he wants to make peace. Not a word about the cruelty of the occupation, human rights, or the scandalous boycott of the Palestinian people.

Ayalon's success in the polls reveals more about us and our loss of direction than it does about him. Again, as in the Third World, the only hope to arise comes in the form of a former general and head of the security services, whose entire glory derives from the years he brandished a sword and whose current views are hollow. And what would he lead? The Labor Party, of course, the only alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu in the next elections, the bastion of the Israeli left. Like Tel Aviv's crowded Ayalon Freeway, this Ayalon will not take us far.