How Religious Zionism Was Transformed from a Political Movement to a Messianic One

Among the earliest leaders of Zionism were several rabbis who went on to become some of Theodor Herzl’s most dedicated supporters. They eschewed the talk of creating “a new Jew” or revolutionizing Judaism that came from some Zionist thinkers, seeing such an approach as a threat to Orthodoxy. Instead, they saw the movement in practical terms as a way of ensuring the Jews’ physical survival. But this all changed with Abraham Isaac Kook, an Orthodox thinker who argued that Zionism was part of the divine plan and who laid out a vision of the rejuvenation of Judaism. Micah Goodman explains these ideas, how Kook’s ideology rose to prominence in the 1970s, and the threat to these ideas posed by the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. (Video, 70 minutes. Audio is available for streaming and download at the link below.)

Read more at Tikvah

More about: Abraham Isaac Kook, Gaza withdrawal, Israel & Zionism, Judaism, Religious Zionism


Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood