"A free people in our land” – Every word of that line of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, brings to mind a different aspect of what it means to be a Zionist in today’s complicated world. A people: through all of our differences we are still a single nation.Free: A principle which is protected by living in a modern, democratic state. In our land: Connected to the land of Israel by 5,000 years of history. These words are not empty rhetoric.They are not mumbled phrases of the past that lose their meaning with constant repetition.The writer volunteers for Im Tirzu.These words are the guiding principle for a modern, sovereign, Jewish and democratic state.Recently the AIPAC conference in the US featured speeches from President Barack Obama, all the Republican candidates and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, all of whom focused on the currently hot topic – a nuclear Iran. Through all the lovely sentiments, warm words, iron-clad promises and applause, the subtext remains clear: the US, Israel’s best friend in the world, will stand beside Israel with whom it shares the goal of a non-nuclear Iran, and Israel should not worry because the US will always be there for her.Prime Minister Netanyahu went to the US and affirmed that Israel will do what it needs to do for its own security, but President Obama counseled patience.When Israel was created in 1948, it was founded on the principle that a homeland be created for the Jewish people. The Declaration of Independence states: “This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.” ISRAEL IS a sovereign nation – a nation independent of the rule of another nation. In simple terms this means that the citizens of Israel will elect representatives in the government to serve them and the interests of the state. This responsibility includes defense of the country and defense of its citizens. Sometime this means acting alone; sometimes this means acting in cooperation with other countries.But the question remains: Would a sovereign nation put its defense in the hands of another government? On June 7, 1981, Israel sent eight fighter jets to bomb the nuclear reactor outside of Baghdad.Saddam Hussein had threatened the destruction of Israel and Israel took its defense into its own hands and cleanly destroyed the threat. Of course, there was international outcry and sanctions by the US against Israel. However, 10 years later, during the 1991 Gulf War, the US realized how justified and important Israel’s actions were and Dick Cheney wrote a thank-you note to prime minister Menachem Begin on a satellite picture of the destroyed reactor.Begin stated in a single sentence what it means to be a sovereign nation, a free people in our land: “Under no circumstances will we allow an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our people.” The historical record also shows that only the cabinet knew of the decision to bomb the reactor, no other country or world leader was notified before the attack took place, there was no debate in the media, there were no polls measuring public opinion. The government of Israel made the best decision for the defense of the State of Israel based on good military intelligence and a single goal – the security of the citizens of the State of Israel.We can also look to the example of the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq was not threatening Israel directly, but the US requested that Israel stand aside while US troops fought the war in Iraq. Israel was also asked not to retaliate, even if attacked. And when the Scuds flew from Iraq and landed in Tel Aviv, Israel stood still at the request of the US.One could argue that today’s world is different and we live in a smaller, global community which requires a more nuanced relationship with our friends and allies. But Israel cannot risk her security for the sake of friendship. Where is the line between honoring an alliance and protecting the citizens of Israel? When Israel’s founding fathers wrote that they wanted to be a nation like any other nation, they meant that Israel would stand among other nations and be equal to them.Israel is not a vassal state, not a puppet regime, not a state in name alone.The Zionist dream is to be a free people in our land. With this freedom comes responsibility. Israel and Israel alone is responsible for the safety of its citizens. Whether this means bombing Iran or being patient while economic sanctions take their time to work remains to be seen. However, Israel must act in her own best interest, as any other sovereign nation in the world would do.