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Have We Reached the End of the Secular Zionist Dream?

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A perception has taken root in Israeli society that canonical, secular Zionist and nationalist, messianic religious Zionism can live side by side in this country. The two are perceived as nuances of one shared ideology, similar to the differences between spiritual-cultural Zionism and political Zionism, or between them and practical Zionism. However, the two are actually different national visions that contradict one another and compete over the determination of the character, identity and regime in the State of Israel; moreover, their ability to coexist is conditional upon the identity of the controlling worldview.

Five fundamental characteristics differentiate the two. First, canonical-secular Zionism saw the need of the Jewish people for a safe shelter as the motivation for establishing the state. “Let sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the globe adequate to meet our rightful national requirements; we will attend to the rest,” Theodor Herzl wrote in “The Jewish State.” Nationalist-messianic Zionism, however, sees the divine commandment to fulfill the biblical promise as the motivation for establishing of the state. “We settled … because we were commanded to inherit the land that God Almighty gave to our forefathers,” Menachem Felix, a leader of Gush Emunim, declared in a hearing at the High Court of Justice regarding the settlement of Elon Moreh in 1979.

The second characteristic: Canonical Zionism saw in its vision of Jewish settlement a Jewish majority next to an Arab minority. “I consider it utterly impossible to eject the Arabs from Palestine,” Ze’ev Jabotinsky declared in “The Iron Wall” in 1923. Messianic Zionism welcomes settlement in a biblical fashion: “As it is written, ‘And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned the land to you to possess.’ About which Rashi interpreted to mean ‘You shall take possession of the land from its inhabitants and then you will settle in it,’” Felix explained.

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The third characteristic: Canonical Zionism saw international legitimacy as the political-legal foundation for establishing the state, and sought to rely on the “natural rights” to self-determination that every nation has. “By virtual of our national and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly,” David Ben-Gurion read in the Declaration of Independence, on May 14, 1948. But Messianic Zionism negates this, and claims the land on the basis of “historic rights” while denying political, spatial and demographic changes that have transpired in the Land of Israel since the destruction of the Second Temple. “It is important to remember that the UN decision is not the source of our right to Israel, but rather the Bible and the promise of the Holy One, Blessed Be He,” Bezalel Smotrich declared two years ago. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner added this year........

© Haaretz