Zionism is about reviving Jewish sovereignty in our ancestral land

We can’t lose faith in our long-term vision, and we must always show determination and willingness to fight for our right to be, as our national anthem states, free people in our ancestral land.

Vehicles drive along a road in the Jordan Valley  (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Vehicles drive along a road in the Jordan Valley
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A debate was raised in the last few days between Prof. Hillel Frisch, from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and Gen. (ret.) Amnon Reshef, founder of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), as to the essence of Zionism. Prof. Frisch claimed that “Zionism is about being pioneers in the land,” and Gen. Reshef claimed that Zionism is about a “secure, Jewish, democratic Israel.”

The discussion about the nature of Zionism, one of the most basic and important values of the people of Israel, is important, and Habithonistim-Protectors of Israel is happy to share its perspective.

What is Zionism?

Zionism, as we understand it, is about building the national home of the Jewish people in our ancestral land, the Land of Israel. The Zionist narrative is straightforward: The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. This narrative is explained very clearly in our Declaration of Independence: “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here our spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped.” We were forcibly exiled from the Land of Israel for almost 2,000 years, but later returned to reclaim our homeland.

From the very beginning, the Zionist spirit was indeed about pioneer settling and creating the infrastructure that would maximize our security: establishing towns along the borders, paving roads between them, developing large agricultural areas, etc. Simultaneously, the Zionist ethos always recognized the need to fight, and glorified the willingness to sacrifice one’s self in order to ensure the future of the next generations.

When Gen. Reshef refers to Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and the Jewish towns of Judea and Samaria as an act of “extreme annexationists,” he is treating classic Zionism as being “extreme” and adopting the Palestinian and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’s narrative that claims we are “annexing Palestinian historical land” and not Jewish historical land.

When CIS demands full “separation” and advocates for a retreat from the whole Israeli “Bible Belt” – our historical and religious sites and towns – it suggests that we must give up the spiritual and religious dimensions of our nationalism, those that are as mentioned in our Declaration of Independence, and remain with only the political one.

An excellent book written by Gen. (ret.) Gershon Hacohen asks, “What is national about national security?” Gen. Hacohen states that national security is not about technical military issues, but it derives from the national core values that kept the Jewish and Zionist flame burning during centuries of hardship.

Israel is not about creating one more successful Manhattan. This purpose is not enough for maintaining the will of the present and future generations to fight and sacrifice in order to thrive and prosper in this tough region. Understanding why we are here and not somewhere else, and what we are fighting for, is acutely important in order to keep our essence of life; even more than the number of fighter jets or tanks we possess.
WE ALL AGREE that a crucial part of Zionism is maintaining a clear majority of Jews in the Jewish state; yet CIS insists on claiming that any act of applying sovereignty over areas that are inhabited by Jews and don’t include the Palestinian Authority necessarily mean that we must “annex” the Palestinians and endanger our Jewish majority. This is simply not true. 

CIS completely ignores that the “Deal of the Century” suggests Israel can apply sovereignty over Jewish communities, have full security responsibility over the whole of the Land of Israel, and that there will still be an option for a Palestinian state to be formed, in a format similar to San Marino, Lesotho or Luxembourg. A demilitarized Palestinian state was also Yitzhak Rabin’s vision when he initiated the Oslo Accords. The original two-state solution was far from what it became later on.

We all aspire to have a Jewish state that will be secured for generations to come. Knowing that we can’t afford a third exile from the land of our forefathers, we understand we can’t afford to lose even one war. However, the plan CIS is aggressively promoting, while falsely claiming that the Jewish majority is in danger, is devastating for Israel’s security.

CIS’s suggestion means that in the long-term, our security should be placed in the hands of the Arabs and international forces. This suggestion is coherent with former president Barack Obama’s plan, which CIS has endorsed since its very foundation. While they talk about “security arrangements,” we know there is no sustainable option other than all aspects of security being solely in the hands of the IDF, along with defensible borders and a strong civil infrastructure. Without Judea and Samaria, Israel simply cannot defend itself from the narrow nine mile-wide coastal plain. This isn’t an ideological opinion; it’s a military fact.

When Zionists came to the Land of Israel in the 19th century, they realized they must acquire three abilities: to establish a Jewish entity in the largest territory possible; to become farmers and grow their livelihood from the land; and to be able to defend themselves without dependence on the good will of the Arabs or the international community. A core value of Zionism is that Israel will never place its citizens’ lives and in someone else’s hands. The Jewish people must be able to defend itself in our homeland and defend every Jewish community around the world when called upon.

In summary, the Zionist movement and the State of Israel have fought from the very beginning against all the odds, and won. Trying to find practical solutions to our complex situation with the Palestinians cannot be done by rejecting our core values and spirit.
Doing so would only weaken us and endanger us more.

We can’t lose faith in our long-term vision, and we must always show determination and willingness to fight for our right to be, as our national anthem states, free people in our ancestral land. The Habithonistim-Protectors of Israel will continue to ensure that Israel will thrive within secure borders, and that the flame of Zionism will continue to burn for generations.

The writer is founder and CEO of Habithonistim-Protectors of Israel.