Oh, the shame: “The party that built the state” is now a radical left-wing outfit that is turning its back on its glorious legacy. Instead of Zionist activism, the Labor Party is leading a confused, lenient ideological line that seeks to dry up settlement. The new map of national priorities that the Labor secretary-general is drawing up denies not only the Zionist legacy but also the historic paths of many of its founders.
During the first Rabin government, dozens of Jewish communities had already been established in Judea and Samaria—and not only in settlement blocs. Even Ofra and Kedumim and Kiryat Arba, which Labor wanted to drop from the map of national priorities, were already there. Yigal Allon, a notable Labor figure, promoted the founding of Kiryat Arba. He explained that this settlement, and settlement as a whole, had been set up to “transfer vital points in different parts of the Land from foreign ownership to the ownership of the Jewish people … to deepen the hold on the internal parts of the land.”
These are simple, direct words. Founding father and first prime minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion was unwilling to give up Hebron under any circumstances. Even Yaakov Hazan of the Mapam—once a partner of the Mapai movement and now part of Meretz—made it clear that from a historical perspective, Hebron was closer to him than Ramla.
The map the Labor Party of today is putting together denies that the settlements, whether in the blocs or deep in the territories, cannot be measured by their political and security worth alone. “A small Hebrew community between large Arab villages … all its homes in one place, its fields in another, the Arab fields beyond that, and the ownership of the land is complicated,” is how Moshe Smilansky described the first days of Petach Tikvah. His words could have been written right now about Ofra or Beit El.
Like Allon, Ben-Gurion and Yisrael Galili or Avraham Herzfeld, Smilansky was not concerned merely with settlements’ contribution to the state’s military security or its chances of survival. Ben-Gurion insisted on holding on to far-flung settlements in the hills of Jerusalem and the Negev and the western Galilee. Even the existence of Yehiam and Gush Etzion went against all narrow security and political considerations, but Zionism did not forgo them. It measured their worth by broader criteria, that included Zionist and national values, the spirit of the people and the question of borders.
Today, all these are known as “the national security view.”
Negba, Gush Etzion, Kfar Drom, Yad Mordechai and Mishmar HaEmek, like those who followed them in Binyamin and Samaria, weren’t founded merely to provide security, but mainly to implement Jewish existence and shape the country’s borders.
In Judea and Samaria, too, the stretches of settlements bolster security and the Israel Defense Forces ongoing security activity. They give our presence in our historic homeland a permanent dimension, not one of passing randomness that invites terrorist attacks. If it weren’t for the settlements in Judea and Samaria, the IDF would be forced to send out bigger forces to prevent the foundation of a “Hamastan” across from the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
But first and foremost, before any of these are weighed, this settlement—like its predecessors—arose from a much simpler source that we should remember and repeat. It was founded because the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and security and policy must serve settlement. Not the opposite.
Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.