Fifty years after the beginning of the occupation, Israel is confronted with the absolute need to make a decision about the nature of its future and its physical, moral and legal identity. Until it does that, it is essentially on a downward spiral in which no external actor is going to be able to make a real difference. To put it in even blunter terms, there are two streams in Israel today: a messianic stream of Zionism that would like Israel to maintain its control over the territories and over the Palestinians without granting them their rights and thereby undermining the vision of the founders of Israel; and a democratic stream of Zionism whose advocates still adhere to the basic principles of the founders of the state and who would like to see in Israel not only the national expression of the Jewish people, but a democratic state with full equality, justice and individual liberty for all its citizens. This is a clash of giants that we are going to have to resolve if we want to survive and thrive. It will be the responsibility of every Israeli and of every Jew to contribute to this resolution.
The Six-Day War is a very complicated legacy for Israel and to try and sum it up in two minutes, or two hours or two days is impossible. But having said that, it has become very common in Israel to say that the Six-Day War was Israel’s shortest and longest war.
The war was very short (only six days) on the one hand, and I think it was Israel’s last defensive war in the full sense of the term, but at the same time it opened a Pandora ’s Box, which has not been resolved to this day. Therefore, although we are much more secure than we ever were in the past, our sense of security has actually diminished. Israel extraordinary sense of insecurity stems from the fact that since the Six-Day War Israel does not have clear boundaries that are recognised by the international community, the shape of its society has altered dramatically and has become split ideologically on the future of the territories, and it is not only not at peace with all of its neighbours, but it is no longer at peace with itself. So the Six-Day War and its lack of closure have created Israel's most existential challenge since its creation.
Naomi Chazan is a former Israeli Knesset Deputy Speaker, former Meretz MK and a leading human rights activist. She served as president of the New Israel Fund from 2008-2012. She is Professor Emerita of Political Science and African Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo.