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Two important dates will be marked in 2004 - the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the 30th anniversary of the founding of Gush Emunin (Bloc of the Faithful). After a lengthy struggle, the two organizations succeeded in replacing the state as the holders of a monopoly on setting the agenda of their nations.

"The settlement revolution continues to move forward to this day and is setting the agenda of the State of Israel," asserts a letter in the bulletin of the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, which was established together with the core group of Gush Emunim. Surely there is no truer description of the connection between Israel and the settlements than that sentence. The state has become the economic and security hinterland of the settlements.

The trouble is that after three decades, the state appears to be about to become superfluous. Worse, it is endangering the true state. Writing in the latest issue of Nekuda, the journal of the Yesha Council of settlements, Prof. Shlomo Kaniel, a resident of the settlement of Neve Tzuf who teaches at Bar-Ilan University's School of Education, offers the following thesis: "A central element in diminishing my solidarity with the state has to do with a decline in confidence in the various components of the establishment (the army, the police, the High Court of Justice and the Shin Bet [security service]).

"I am experiencing doubts about the idea that the state is a holy thing and we are in the era of the beginning of redemption. Maybe I was wrong and a state that does not uphold its obligations toward its citizens is not the start of redemption. Evacuation (heaven forbid) will be a decisive element within a lengthy process of the loss of shared partnership."

Indeed, the writer continues, "A state that decides to give its enemies territories and weapons is perpetrating a kind of `national betrayal,' which is tantamount to a decision to dismantle the democracy or to deprive me of the right to worship. A problem will begin to arise about serving in the army of a state of this kind and to obey its laws, if it doesn't protect you and [instead] hands you over to enemies."

This, then, is the agenda according to Kaniel - two states for two peoples, with settlers in the east and the dumb nation that has so far protected them in the west. One bluff that his comments contain is that the residents of Neve Tzuf, like the residents of the other settlements, are not citizens of Israel. In that sense, there status is no different from the status of the Jews of France or Yemen. The second bluff is that the minority in whose name Kaniel is speaking certainly does not grasp the contradiction that underlies the call for democracy within a situation of occupation.

In any event, Kaniel is entitled to worship in any synagogue in the temporary state called Israel, which was established by the Zionists - temporary, because the stronger the state of the settlers becomes, the more the State of Israel will disintegrate. Is this not how Kaniel and his colleagues planned for things to happen?

"The emphasis today is more on the small group and not on the state-oriented approach," Kaniel warns. "In reaction to global processes involving the blurring of national identities, I, like others, am experiencing counter-processes of the strengthening of my identity as an individual who belongs to a small group."

This is the settlement-based identity that is finally allowing itself to be released from the Israeli fold and to present Jewish meta-national affiliation, which is far more qualitative than belonging to the "`the religion of democracy' in which a person is master of his body and his life, and has no right to endanger his children and his family for his values," in Kaniel's words.

The Zionist attempt to establish a Jewish state has thus failed. Israel has become a "regular" democracy in which the individual human being, and not God, is the center of the universe; in which identity is national and earthly and not divine; in which the residents are merely "citizens" and not "brothers," and in which the institutions are always busy destroying the infrastructure of the country of the settlements.

A state of that kind has the option of either joining the settlements or ceasing to exist. There will be no more settler attempts to curry favor with the Israelis. Please stand in line in order to receive a certificate of Jewish validation from the settlers.

This is the true achievement of the state of the settlers. After just three decades, they possess a state with identity, borders and terms of admission. This may be the appropriate time to separate from it and from them, before they foist their identity on us and annex Israel to them as though it were another mobile home.