Ami Ayalon is running for leadership of the Israeli Labor party, and from there, he hopes, to the Prime Minister's office. We had the opportunity to meet Ayalon last night at a reception during which he spoke about his vision for Israel, Palestine and the Middle East.
Ayalon has a distinguished military career in Israel, including time as commander of the Navy and later as director of the Shin Bet security service. Soon after the end of his government service, and during the time he entered politics, he became engrossed in the politics of pragmatism (his term) in order to find real peace for the region. The core of his argument, learned over the years, he told us, from his wife, is that Israel will have peace and security when Palestinians have hope, and a land of their own. He and Sari Nusseibeh founded The People's Voice and formulated a statement of principles on which to build such a program, which has over 400,000 signatories from members of the two peoples.
It is refreshing to hear a politician with a strong (and, yes, compelling) vision, not looking to appease his listeners, with a strong and realistic understanding of Palestinians' hopes and motivations, talking about what could be. He calls for the citizens of Israel and the putative citizens of Palestine to become activists for pragmatism, to become activists for the peace solution that everyone knows must be reached. He frames a story of Jewish peoplehood that rings out for Jews, and he demands the right for Palestinians to have their peoplehood recognised in just the same way.
My good friend Yossi Abramowitz often says "you heard it here first" in his blog. Well, you heard it here first: watch Ami Ayalon - he will make a great leader for Israel.