When Israel signed the Abraham Accords, Haaretz reporter Anshel Pfeffer wrote, “Zionism is an archaic and misleading term in our day and age.” Pfeffer was not the first to claim that, while Zionism was a movement that changed Jewish history forever, its goals were fulfilled on May 14, 1948 when the State of Israel was founded. He believes Zionism was a movement with one goal: the establishment of a Jewish state. As soon as it did so, it became irrelevant.
Pfeffer is very wrong. His position reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of Zionism. Zionism isn’t just about establishing a Jewish state. It’s also about the development and growth of the Jewish people in their homeland.
However, this raises the question: What is the next frontier for Zionism?
Israel’s Declaration of Independence declares that one of the Jewish state’s goals is peace with its Arab neighbors: “We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”
Clearly, Israel wasn’t interested in being a pariah state. It wanted to play an integral role in the region.
Israel’s dreams of peace and integration with the Arab world were challenged by the Arab goal of destroying Israel. The Khartoum Resolution, issued in 1967 at the conclusion of an Arab League summit in the wake of the Six-Day War, stated, “The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of 5 June. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.”
The final sentence came to be called the “three noes.” They lasted almost a half a century.
The first repudiation of the “three noes” was Egypt’s decision to negotiate and sign a peace accord with Israel in 1979. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin spoke to the Egyptian people, saying, “We do not want any clashes with you. Let us say one to another, and let it be a silent oath by both peoples, of Egypt and Israel: No more wars, no more bloodshed and no more threats. Let us not only make peace, let us also start on the road to friendship, sincere and productive cooperation. We can help each other. We can make the lives of our nations better, easier, happier.”
The true obliteration of the “three noes” was the 2020 Abraham Accords. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu stated, “Despite the many challenges and hardships that we all face—despite all that—let us pause for a moment to appreciate this remarkable day. Let us rise above any political divide. Let us put all cynicism aside. Let us feel on this day the pulse of history. For long after the [Covid] pandemic is gone, the peace we make today will endure.”
This accomplishment was counterintuitive. For decades, a peace agreement with the Palestinians had been seen as Zionism’s next frontier. It was assumed that, should this be accomplished, peace with the larger Arab world would quickly follow. Zionism’s original goal of becoming a normal Middle Eastern nation would finally be realized.
But the second intifada and continued Palestinian intransigence convinced most Israelis that the Palestinians want peace without Israel, not with Israel. Indeed, as long as Jew-hatred prevails in Palestinian society and especially the Palestinian educational system, it seems that hate will prevail over peace.
Nonetheless, the Abraham Accords are a hopeful sign. They showed that peace with much of the Arab world was possible in spite of the Palestinians’ traditional “veto” on such agreements. Zionism’s next objective should be full integration into the Middle East. While this might have seemed like a fantasy just a few years ago, today it seems like a very real possibility.