We Have a Leader

We did not dwell on Livni's statement that these elections were about peace until it became clear that amid all the tangles of the strategic campaign, she actually meant what she said.

A red-letter day for the wounded doves? A reason to party for all of those disappointed by Yasser Arafat, bored by Mahmoud Abbas, depressed by Hamas? Could it be - with all due caution and necessary reservations - that a new leader for the orphaned peace camp has finally emerged?

She emerged among us almost unnoticed. That sometimes happens during a campaign. Everyone is so busy with strategy - the spinmeisters with hiding their strategies, the pundits with exposing them, and the voters with their strategic voting - that they fail to notice when a candidate removes the cellophane wrapping and the plastic smile and begins to talk turkey.

That is what happened to us, when Tzipi Livni suddenly declared that these elections were about peace. Her statement attracted little attention, and even that was grudging and unenthusiastic. After all, such a statement so soon before Election Day did not mesh with any known strategy except that of straight talking, which has long since vanished from the scene, and is certainly not admired in these parts.

So we did not dwell on that statement then until it became clear, with the start of the horse-trading season, that amid all the tangles of the strategic campaign, Livni actually meant what she said.

Perhaps her determined stance should actually be attributed to her critics. Who says the press is losing its influence? Just two weeks ago, this page published a column claiming that Livni's "thinking is not clear," that she has a "total lack of emotional intelligence," and that she is "opinionated and superficial." In the intervening fortnight, her thinking has become crystal clear, judging by her conduct since the election results were published. She has acquired emotional intelligence, too, since Election Day, at least on television. And as for her superficial opinions, these, it turns out, have deepened enough to allow her to see with certainty what depths of despair await us if a right-wing government is established.

Meanwhile, with every statement she makes, she is redefining the gap, which had seemed to blur but must be preserved, between adherents of the possible and those who would impose a Zionism without borders. Granted, Ehud Olmert also spoke this message of moderation with the zealous conviction of a penitent. But he failed the test of action. He claimed that he was not defeated by the screaming young girls at Amona, but the fact is that no more Amonas were dismantled on his watch. Livni's test is still before her.

Does all this mean that Livni will not, in the end, join up with Benjamin Netanyahu in some form or another? It is impossible to know. It is also impossible to know how her voters would feel if she did decide to do so. Meanwhile, let us allow ourselves a moment of gratification at the sound of her delightfully blunt statements about her refusal to be drawn into collaborating with a government of paralysis and rejectionism.

Is this naive? Are we being led astray by that master of spin, Reuven Adler, who recently convinced the entire world that a man-eating dinosaur had become a lovable grandfather, and is now turning a drab politician into a star?

That is certainly possible. But it is also possible that she really has it. True, Livni is not a prodigy, and apparently never will be. She is also not exceptionally charismatic (nor is she chummy, and there are even some who say she is not especially nice). But we already have two brilliant prodigies, God help us. What we are lacking, what we really need, is someone who has been blessed with a healthy dose of common sense - the rare commodity that is so often dismissed as unimportant. Someone who understands, really understands, to the depths of his being, that our time as a country is running out, and that without two states, there will be only one state - theirs.

It seems that we have alighted on such a person. But she is still weak and fragile, surrounded by shallow, cynical politicians who are not fit partners for her, given the importance of the moment and the scale of the dangers. We voted for her out of strategic considerations. But it seems that this did something for her. And maybe, please God, for us as well.