Sunday, May 16, 2004

The rally
The only thing worth listening to, amid the usual politicians' blah blah at last night’s rally, seems to have been Ami Ayalon’s speech.

I once knew someone who had been under Ami Ayalon’s command in the Shayetet. He said about him that he was “Ish katan gadol”. How do I translate that? A big small man? A small man of greatness? A great little man? Small in stature, but a giant in every other respect? You get the picture. This guy I knew who was under his command was also a man of greatness. He died trying to save people in a plane crash in Africa.

I think Ayalon’s speech shows great understanding, perception, and sensitivity.

"The Majority Decides" rally speech, Rabin Square, by Ami Ayalon, May 15 2004

I didn't want to come to this square and be a part of the politics of this rally. It was only the horror of seeing more of our soldiers killed that brought me here. I have no words with which to console the bereaved families. So instead I have come here, to this square, to shout out the truth as I see it.

I came, and find myself asking: Why are we here tonight? To tell the prime minister to get out of Gaza? He already knows we have to get out. To tell the prime minister that settlements should be removed? He knows that too. To tell the prime minister that he has a large majority that would support such a move? That's true enough, but that majority did not come to this square tonight.

So I ask myself: How is it that, at this crucial time, such a small segment of the public has come to this square? Why is it that Tzippi Livni, Ehud Olmert, Meir Sheetrit, Tommy Lapid and their colleagues are not here? If the majority indeed decides, how come there are so few immigrants here, so few residents of the Negev and Galilee, the poor districts and development towns? If we are the deciding majority, why did we give up so glibly on our religiously observant countrymen, who could not make it here because we scheduled the demonstration for Shabbat? The truth is this: The speakers on this podium – myself included – and you out there in the audience do not represent the deciding majority!

Let me tell you why the real deciding majority is not here. They are not here because we who stand in this square tonight have not managed to win the hearts of the deciding majority. We never created a real dialogue. Perhaps we never really
wanted to. We turned the settlers of Judea, Samaria and Gaza into enemies. We arrogantly turned them out. We monopolized the quest for peace. That is why the majority did not come here, although I know that, today of all days, they wanted to come.

This majority is sitting at home and keeping silent, despite the fact they want
peace no less than us. This majority wants to leave Gaza as much as we do. But they
want to do so after lowering the national flag to half-mast, observing a minute's silence, and wiping a tear at the shattering of their Zionist dream...

This majority will feel connected to us only when the pain of those slated to be evacuated drowns out the rejoicing of those who will do the evacuating. The deciding majority – those who came here tonight and the many more who stayed away – do not and should not care who ends up signing the accord that ends this conflict. But because the majority stays silent, it has no influence or power to decide, and therefore becomes meaningless.

Israel today has a prime minister who, I personally believe, wants to make progress. Where or why, I really do not care. I believe that after tough deliberations he arrived at the painful conclusion that all the Gaza Strip settlements must be evacuated. I believe he is capable of carrying this out, that he has the determination and the power. I believe that only he who feels great sadness on the day of the evacuation will be able to pull it off without finding himself in the middle of a civil war.

I believe that leaving Gaza is a small step for the people of Israel but a big step for the vision of a democratic Jewish state living in peace with it neighbors. It is a big step for the Zionist dream!

But to leave Gaza, we need for the majority to break its silence. It has to say – no, to shout out – what it thinks. We need an organized majority to tell the prime minister: "If you go ahead with this, we will be with you!" We need a big-time majority, not small-time politics. Gaza is no longer a matter of politics, it is a matter of preserving lives.

Therefore what we must do is speak not only of disengaging from Gaza, but also, most critically, or reaching consensus with those who are not here tonight but think like us. Like us, they know where we want to go. Like us they know the painful price we must pay to get there. Like us, they have red lines. Red line: No Palestinians will return to Israel proper under a final accord. Red line: Palestine will not constitute a threat to Israel's security. Red line: There will be no civil war in Israel.

That leaves the question of when it will happen, when will the day finally arrive? When every person standing here, and all those who think like us but stayed away, gets up in the morning, every morning, and asks him or herself what they are doing to bring that day closer. Has he written a letter to the prime minister, government ministers, Knesset members? Has she written to a newspaper? Has he signed a petition, or signed up others? How many? Has she demonstrated at the junctions, or put up posters? Does it burn like fire in his or her soul? This day will not come on its own, but only when we fight to bring it about.