Ayalon's New Language

Why, on an evening like this, when throngs of hopeless, politically crushed people sought a little familiar tribal comfort against the right and the government, did Ayalon have to hand the left the inflexible key to its failure?

The decision by the organizers of Saturday night's demonstration in Rabin Square to invite former Shin Ben Security Services chief Ami Ayalon to give the first speech surprised the protesters. Although Ayalon is known for being one of the leaders of the initiative for dialogue with the Palestinians, he has never been a beloved son of the peace camp.

For one moment, on September 10, 2001, it seemed as if he was going to be the new hope. The party he was about to establish evaporated, however, and the star-hunters of the left anointed Amram Mitzna. Mitzna turned out to be a total failure. Ayalon, who had been burned by politics, had sworn not to become involved in it again.

But suddenly here he was at the demonstration. It was clear that the crowd was not enthused by his words, which newspaper analysts will doubt, and then accuse him of ingratiating himself with the right.

Ayalon did not deliver the goods that demonstrators are used to applauding: he did not quote the "Song of Peace" (the last song sung by Yitzhak Rabin right before he was assassinated), did not say that the settlers are a malignant growth in the body of the nation, and did not mention how much they cost, nor that we were right and now the right knows it. Instead, Ayalon did what leaders of the left have never done, certainly not at demonstrations: soul-searching.

"How is it that on an evening like this only a small minority of the people came here?" he asked. "If the majority rules, how is it the so few immigrants are here - residents of the development towns - and how is it that we gave up so quickly on our skullcap-wearing friends who could not come because we held a demonstration on Shabbat?"

His answer was a tough one. "We did not win their hearts."

Why, on an evening like this, when throngs of hopeless, politically crushed people sought a little familiar tribal comfort against the right and the government, did Ayalon have to hand the left the inflexible key to its failure? That key cannot be found in the realms of justice and rational discourse, but rather in the evasive realm of the wisdom of feeling. That realm includes abilities such as empathy for the other, attentiveness to his grief, an attempt to put oneself in his place, and openness to his way of thinking and his cultural world.

"We have claimed peace as our heritage as rulers," said Ayalon.

He, after all, cannot be suspected of thinking that the settlers are right or that the fear of civil war has brought him to submission. One could actually claim that Ayalon did one of the wisest political acts by the left in recent years: he looked his bitter political opponent in the eye and declared that he is sick of the fruitless struggle, that he is interested in recruiting his opponent for a joint goal, and that he knows how much this inevitable step hurts his opponent.

That step is the separation from the dream of a Greater Land of Israel in order to rescue Zionism and rehabilitate sovereign, moral Israeli society. Anyone who does not remember should read Ayalon's dovish-but-strong expressions in the statement of principles he wrote with Al Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh. However, unlike others in the leftist camp, who spoke arrogantly and contemptuously about those with whom they should be waging a serious and exhaustive struggle - among other reasons because the opponent feels persecuted, justifiably or not - Ayalon proposes a new path.

He is not giving up the pure leftist ideology, but speaks to a public that the left abandoned long ago - the silent majority. That is the majority that really did not come to the demonstration, mainly because it is estranged from the worn-out and heartless language of the left. Ayalon is speaking to them in a new language.

This language is the pioneer that walks before the camp. It displays responsibility toward society as a whole, offers the moderate center a way out of its stagnation, and invites it to join the voice of reason, and perhaps will even succeed in awakening the left, unraveled, confused and despairing of its faltering. Perhaps the time has yet to come. Maybe they need another right-wing government that will mire Israel even deeper in the lethal mud, and will leave Labor and Meretz in their limp power struggles.

Only then will the speakers of the new language be forced to grab the political reins. At a certain point, even Ayalon, who is overly fearful of politics, will have no choice.