Zionism, being a secular national movement, based its claim to the land of Israel on the historical fact of its being the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. The Biblical narrative's founding myths – the tales of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – take place in that land, and historically the kingdom of David, as also the first and second great Temples, stood there. But here's the catch: these were all situated on the east side of the 1967 border. These events happened in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem – not in Tel Aviv or Haifa.
On the other hand, Zionism was never simply about founding a safe haven for the Jews all over the world, an independent state which would realize the Jewish people's right to self-determination. Historically, classical Zionism, both Left-winged and right, set to establish not only this, but an exemplary society. This was to be a modern and secular interpretation of the traditional “Light onto the Nations” ethos. the Jewish state was meant to be democratic, egalitarian, gracious and just.
It is obvious, however, that a state permanently controlling millions of subjects without granting them citizenship and equal rights could never be considered a democracy, much less a model society. Officially annexing Judea and Samaria would therefore immediately destroy this central element of Zionism. A different option, annexing the occupied territories while granting the Palestinians full citizenship, would undermine Zionism from yet another angle, as it would turn the state into a bi-national entity, thus nullifying the Jewish people's (and, of course, the Palestinian people's) right to self-determination.
The choice the State of Israel has long been trying to avoid is clear. If Israel wishes to remain democratic it has to give up either Judea and Samaria or being a national home for the Jews. If it wants to be a national home for the Jews it will have to withdraw either from Judea and Samaria or from its democratic principles. And if it keeps Judea and Samaria it losses either Jewish nationality, or democracy.
Fifty years after Israel had seized control of Judea and Samaria its political leadership seams to dread the possibility of giving these regions up, even at the price of quenching Israeli democracy and the Zionist dream of a model society. It is of course possible that even all the good will from the Israeli side will find a reluctant Palestinian leadership, but certainly not enough is being done by Israel to further an agreement and to secure the future of a democratic independent Jewish state. It seems that unless liberal Israeli forces rise and come to the fore the next fifty years will unfortunately witness Zionism, having come at least partly to its fulfilment, unravel and demise.
It is not by chance that fifty years have passed since the Israeli occupation of Judea and Samaria with little to no change in the official status quo concerning these. Israel has neither annexed nor withdrawn from the West Bank, holding the occupied territories in a judicial and national limbo. Neither an accident nor a coincidence, this is the visible result of Judea and Samaria's manifestation both of Zionism's fulfilment, and it's unraveling.
Dr. Tomer Persico is a Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and teaches at the Department for Comparative Religion in Tel-Aviv University. His book, The Jewish Meditative Tradition,was published by Tel Aviv University Press in 2016. He is an activist for freedom of religion in Israel, writes the most popular blog in Hebrew on religion, and has written hundreds articles on these subjects for the popular media.