JERUSALEM — Anyone who has lived or worked in Israel and understands modern Hebrew knows that in Israeli slang Zionism is a synonyn for nonsense.
People who get into an argument with one another will say, “Don’t talk Zionism to me,” meaning, stick to the point and don’t bring up irrelevant issues.
This seemingly trivial aspect of local folklore offers a facile explanation for outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s blunt declaration that “the vision of a Greater Land of Israel no longer exists” and that “those who speak of it are delusional.”
In effect, these words were in line with the incumbent government’s relentless effort, aided and abetted by the Bush administration, to allocate 98.1 percent of what remains of the West Bank to the projected Palestinian state. (The Palestinians demand 100 percent.)
The painful flaw in Olmert’s argument is his assumption that the overwhelming majority of Israel’s Jewish population will go along with the total surrender of biblical Israel.
It may seem chauvinistic or narrow-minded to some, possibly including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and maybe President Bush as well, to recall that Jews have maintained an unbreakable spiritual bond to their ancient homeland during 2,000 years of exile, praying throughout for their return to Zion and reciting the pronouncements of the Hebrew prophets who emerged from this cradle of Jewish civilization.
It may not be politically corrrect to point out that when Theodore Herzl launched the Zionist movement 112 years ago his objective was to secure a homeland for the persecuted Jews of Europe and their kin throughout the world in what then was called Palestine — all of Palestine, not a geographical shadow of the original territory.
When Chaim Weizmann, who became the first president of the modern State of Israel, secured a binding declaration from British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour in 1917 that Palestine would be turned into a Jewish national home, he did not expect to receive a truncated segment of the territory.
One does not have to be an advocate of unrestricted or unlimited Jewish settlement in the West Bank, which Israel conquered 41 years ago in the Six Day War, to understand the profound sentiment that stirred most if not many of Israel’s soldiers when they arrived in Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho and Shechem (Nablus) — all West Bank cities they had venerated from afar while studying about them in school.
Olmert’s objective was to promote his belief that the only way to solve the running dispute between Israelis and Palestinians is for the former to give up land to the latter.
He evidently was not deterred by the fact that when they did just that in the Gaza Strip three years ago, what they got in return was not peace, but the sword.
The political program he advocates along with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and most of their ruling Kadima Party’s Cabinet members and cardholders is termed the two-state solution: two geographically adjacent, but administratively separate entities co-existing, as President Bush believes they can and will, in peace.
The more evidence there is that the projected Palestinian state’s leaders never will relinquish their demand that the hundreds of thousands of refugees be allowed to return to their former homes and that it may become a springboard for constant terrorist if not military attacks, the more vehemently Olmert and his supporters warn that a one-state solution, in which Jews and Arabs would have equal rights within some kind of federal system will bring an end to Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land.
Moreover, little attention is paid here to the predictable reaction in the Arab and Islamic worlds to Israel’s voluntary handover of territory gained by military force. It will not be gratitude or respect for a purported act of good will, but contempt for what their extremists will regard as proof of weakness or even worse, proof that the Jews’ attachment to the land is fictional and insincere.
If the Jews really did and still do believe the territory in question was the their historical legacy it never would be given up voluntarily, according to Arab and Muslim logic.
In fact, the primary motive for Olmert’s espousal of the two-state solution is the mistaken belief that it is the only way to preserve Israel as a (so-called) Jewish and democratic state. Concurrently, it stems from an unrealistic refusal to live side by side with Arabs.
The subliminal slogan that permeates Olmert’s brand of Israeli politics is the one Defense Minister Ehud Barak used when he ran successfully for the premiership more than a decade ago, “We here, they there.”
(Jay Bushinsky, an Israel-based political columnist, can be reached at Jay@actcom.co.il.)