Tuesday, did the Israeli electorate determine that Zionism is no longer
The chattering class's repeated characterization of this week's elections as
"post-Zionist," prompted me to return to the sources. To Theodore Herzl.
Would Herzl have understood the problems and dangers plaguing Israel today?
How would the father of Modern Zionism deal with the current challenges
facing the Jewish people?
I found the answers in an essay on Herzl written in 1938 by Professor
Benzion Netanyahu republished in his 2003 book, The Founding Fathers of
Herzl distinguished himself from the other early Zionist leaders by virtue
of his ability to place the establishment of the Jewish state in the Land of
Israel in the larger context of global affairs. In contrast, his colleagues
at the end of the 19th century approached the issue of the Jewish state as
an internal and sectoral Jewish issue unrelated to world trends, regional
developments and threats to Diaspora Jewry.
Herzl's perspective drew him to the conclusion that the establishment of a
sovereign Jewish state depended on simultaneous actions in the
international, regional and internal Jewish arenas. Internationally, Herzl
worked to achieve Turkish and European recognition and support for the
establishment of a sovereign Jewish state in the Land of Israel. Herzl
sought a legal charter for the state to ensure that the right of Jews to
immigrate and take possession of the land would not be challenged as their
rights were challenged in the Diaspora.
Regionally, Herzl understood that establishing Jewish settlements in the
Land of Israel would provoke the local Arabs to attack.
As a result, he repeatedly stressed the need for
a Jewish army charged with defending the settlers from attack.
Among world Jewry, Herzl understood that even if the international community
recognized the Jewish people's legal right to establish their state in the
Land of Israel, the state would not be born unless the Jews wished to
establish it. And so Herzl worked to instill a national will to sovereignty
and liberty among the long powerless and oppressed Jews of Europe. As Herzl
explained to them, "Our proximity to Jerusalem is the same as our desire for
Jerusalem. It is question of the will that beats within us. Our task [as
Zionists] is to awaken this will, to strengthen it, and if possible to spur
Professor Netanyahu authored his essay as Hitler completed the
remilitarization of the Rhineland and was poised to take over Austria and
Czechoslovakia; Britain breached its international legal commitments to the
Zionists as set out in the League of Nations Mandate and the Balfour
Declaration throwing their support behind the Arabs; the Arab terror war
against the Zionists in Israel raged on with Nazi support and the Zionist
leadership under Chaim Weizmann daily demonstrated its weakness and
Today, with the erosion of Israel's international legitimacy; the
establishment of the Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority; the
inexorable progress of Iran's nuclear weapons program and the Israeli
elections results that gave the most Knesset seats to two parties dedicated
to the mass expulsion of Jews from their homes and the handover of Judea and
Samaria to Hamas, Herzl's Zionist strategy is as relevant for the Jewish
people as it was in 1938.
In spite of the Israeli media's best efforts, Zionism did not die on
Tuesday. Although the formation of Kadima strengthened the Israeli
post-Zionist Left, it is impossible to view the election results as a
mandate to implement Kadima's policy of mass expulsions and military retreat
from Judea and Samaria.
The nation is split in half between Left and Right. The parties that support
capitulation won 54 seats and those that oppose capitulating won 50 seats.
Although both Kadima head Ehud Olmert and Labor leader Amir Peretz are
capable of forming coalition governments, with the support of all seven
members of Knesset from the Pensioners Party support that is far from
assured the both have but a bear majority of non-Arab support for the
plan. Indeed, the only stable coalitions for Kadima or Labor include
anti-capitulation parties. This state of affairs together with the low voter
turnout Tuesday means that Kadima and its sister parties on the Left did not
receive a mandate and do not have the political strength to automatically
implement their expulsion and retreat plan.
So Zionism, as represented today by the Nationalist camp is not dead. But as
they did in Herzl's time, the Zionists today face difficult and complicated
challenges. If Herzl's followers today follow the example he set in 1897,
like him they can change Israel's current diplomatic, military and social
realities. They can renew the nation's faith in itself and strengthen Israel's
international posture and legitimacy. By accomplishing these goals, they
will remove the threat of capitulation and loss of Jewish sovereignty for
the foreseeable future and set the conditions for Israel's victory in the
Palestinian terror war.
To achieve these aims, Herzl's disciples, whose most prominent political
representatives are the Likud and National Union-NRP need to operate
simultaneously in the international and Jewish arenas.
Internationally the Nationalist camp needs to address three separate
audiences. First, they must turn to the neo-conservative leadership in the
US, Australia, Canada and Europe.
Two years ago, the Nationalist camp was abandoned by American
neo-conservatives. This was largely as a result of the neo-conservatives'
unqualified support for US President George W. Bush who supported Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza and northern Samaria in
spite of the fact that his plan flew in the face of the Bush Doctrine.
Today, with Sharon out of power and with the growing willingness of American
conservatives to criticize the Bush Administration for its apparent
unwillingness to adopt and implement a credible or effective policies on
Iran's nuclear weapons program and the Iranian and Syrian subversion of US
efforts in Iraq and Lebanon, there is a good chance that some
neo-conservatives will be willing to return to their traditional support for
Israel's right and duty to win the wars waged against it by its neighbors.
Second, the Nationalist camp should strengthen its ties to the American
Christian Zionists whose leaders just founded a lobbying arm modeled on
AIPAC which they hope to use to extend US support for the Jewish state. The
Nationalist camp should help them understand that implementing Kadima's
capitulation plan will harm US interests by strengthening Iran and Syria and
their Shiite and Sunni proxies in Iraq and Lebanon; endangering the
Hashemite regime in Jordan; and providing global jihadists a stable base of
operations in Judea and Samaria that will endanger Israel's long term
survivability. The anti-capitulationists should show them that the converse
is also true. An Israeli victory against the Palestinian terror war will
strengthen the US and its allies and weaken its enemies.
The Nationalist camp must strengthen its ties to Diaspora Jewry. Its members
should explain the direct connection between the Israeli weakness and
capitulation extolled by Kadima and the empowerment and legitimization of
anti-Semitic forces in the Diaspora. Diaspora Jewry should be exposed to the
view that when the Israeli government adopts a policy that weakens Israel,
supporting that government is not the same as supporting Israel. By
emphasizing the shared fate of world Jewry, the Nationalist camp will
strengthen Jewish solidarity and Jewish identity among Diaspora Jewry and
increase interest in aliyah.
On Wednesday, the US and Canada cut off all ties to the PA following the
formation of the Hamas government. Their moves were portrayed as shows of
support for Israel which indeed they were. And yet, irrespective of Israel,
it is in the national interest of all states that oppose the victory of the
global jihad to cut off support for the Hamas-led PA. Al Qaida and Hamas
receive funding from the same sources, are indoctrinated by the same
religious authorities and view the world in the same way. The legitimization
of one necessarily involves the legitimization of the other. The Nationalist
camp should work to bring this point home throughout the world.
Turning to domestic affairs, to prevent the implementation of Kadima's
capitulation plan, the Nationalist camp should conduct a continuous campaign
to bring down Kadima and enlarge the Nationalist camp's political base. This
needn't be particularly difficult.
Olmert is not Sharon. Any doubts that this is the case were dispelled when
his party colleagues attacked him for Kadima's loss of 40 percent of its
supporters during the last two and a half months since Sharon's
incapacitation. Unlike Sharon, who was elevated above his colleagues, Olmert's
political associates see him as a first among equals. They do not fear him
and the public does not trust his word as it trusted Sharon. Olmert will
need far more than a simple parliamentary majority and media backing to
implement his capitulation plan.
Yet Olmert's weakness alone will not bring about Kadima's collapse. The
Nationalist camp needs to preserve and widen its political base. To
accomplish this, it must maintain opposition to Olmert's capitulation plan
among Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beitenu and Likud voters. The
voters' opposition will prevent their party leaders from risking their wrath
by supporting capitulation in exchange for cabinet and sub-cabinet posts. As
well, it must seek to convince at least two members of Knesset from the
Pensioners party to reject the expulsion plan.
The Nationalist camp needs a strong and unified leadership to preserve and
widen its support base. Such leadership can only emerge if the Likud and
National Union-NRP Knesset factions merge. To his great credit, MK Effi
Eitam from the National Union recognizes this imperative and since Tuesday
night has been working quietly and skillfully to bring about the merger.
Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu should immediately accept Eitam's offer.
Doing so will both neutralize attempts by his Likud rivals to unseat him and
ensure that Likud remains the leader of the Nationalist camp despite its
All of these actions owe their inspiration to Herzl's strategic program for
establishing the Jewish state. If undertaken simultaneously by a unified,
professional and dedicated Nationalist camp we can foresee that in addition
to weakening an Olmert or Peretz-led coalition government and strengthening
the Nationalist camp, they will enhance Israel's national security by
preventing the implementation of the capitulation plan and renewing Israel's
legitimacy both in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of its citizens.
One hundred years ago, Herzl and his colleagues referred to what we now call
post-Zionism as a Diaspora mentality. As was the case back then, today
following his Zionist strategy remains the best way to ensure the survival
of the Jewish state. If we heed his message, the
father of Modern Zionism will also be known as the father of post-modern
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