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Since the eruption of Intifada II and the collapse of the Oslo process, the consensus in Israel seems to have taken shape around a number of new conventions. For example, that the shattering of the hope for a settlement and for normalization in the near future has not only thrust the entire political system to the right, it has also "returned us to ourselves" - meaning, to the wellsprings of Zionism; to the old, rock-solid "basic verities": immigration, settlement, redemption of the land, consolidation of our hold and expansion of our border.

That, at least, is the picture that is being painted by the advocates of settlement and existential inertia, a group centering around the settlers and their supporters. As far as they are concerned, the "Oslo process" was, in any event, a hazard and a mistake - with or without the Intifada and without any connection to the behavior of the Palestinians. That's because the very intention of furthering existential normalization amounted to the undermining of the "correct," the "Zionist," way of doing things.

Those who hold this viewpoint could perhaps have celebrated their "ideological victory" these days, were it not for a sea-change in the very definition of this "Zionism" that has occurred, even from their point of view. Arguably, a major change of form has been undergone by the Jews' liberation and normalization movement as it was foreseen in the imagination of Theodor Herzl or Max Nordau.

The essence of this mutation is visible in the supposedly marginal issue of the settlers' "outposts." Let's just listen to the reasoning offered for the establishment of these outposts, the same reasoning that underlies the establishment of many of the settlements: "A couple was murdered 500 meters from the gate of the settlement," one of the leaders of the West Bank settlement of Ofra explained a week ago, "so our simple Zionist answer is that we are simply going to inhabit that exact place. Wherever Jews are killed - we will settle."

Here, then, is the gist of the logic that drives "victimization Zionism," or "retaliation Zionism." It's a Zionism that no longer operates from the desire for normalization and a better life, but mainly by force of the feeling of being a victim and the desire to retaliate. True, "everyone wants to live," as the poet put it, even those who demand sacrifices; but gradually a general definition of self-determination is being cultivated that rests almost exclusively on victimization, and in any event that - consciously or not - lives in constant expectation of the next disaster as a pretext for implementing national goals: to establish a settlement, attack enemy targets, expand a border ...

As long as that point of view was considered the preserve of a somewhat weird minority or of a hot-headed opposition, it could be shrugged off as one of the abundantly diverse manifestations of our political culture. This retaliatory approach could be treated with a modicum of respect if it at least was of some long-term strategic benefit (for example, if it forced the Palestinians to draw lessons from their behavior). However, even after it was proven to be a failure, and even when the government, and its leader in particular, now espouses this victimization-retaliation concept and lauds the settlers to the skies as our ideological spearhead - it is still possible to say that official Israel is effectively adopting a macabre and twisted approach: It is pinning its greatest hope on evil works of its enemies, on the coming disaster and the next victims. And thus, paradoxically, the continued sense of being the victim has become almost a reason for being, at least for the present government.

Even day-to-day matters, such as where and if to establish a settlement, where the road, fence or border will run, and even how the new immigrants will be integrated, are no longer the product of intelligent planning but a function of "terrorism," dependent on the question of who and how many will become the victims of the next terrorist attack. The "number of victims" and their identity serves as an excuse for putting into practice a directionless settlement policy, and our lives move along in the shadow of the expectation of a "big bang" of some kind, with a host of casualties, that will "dictate to us" or "force us" (truly splendid expressions of national sovereignty) to adopt a policy of settlement or military retaliation, even if it has no goal.

It's hardly surprising that from this psychological ground springs the readiness and even the longing for a full-scale war: even that, despite, or perhaps because of, the vast number of victims it will yield, is now considered a wonderfully fruitful opportunity for an endless number of reactions and additional pretexts. Is this the dream of the Jewish state that the fathers of political Zionism envisaged? Or is it a nightmare?

At the conclusion of his futuristic novel "Altneuland" ("Old-New Land"), Herzl has the main characters discuss the question of what, in fact, the "new, happier form" of the life of the Jews in their country has fomented. The responses of the participants are many and diverse: "the reunification of the people," "new means of transportation," "science," "will power," "love and suffering," "God," "faith in our own abilities," "mutual tolerance" and so forth. And today? What is the "form of our life" in this country fomenting and dictating today? There is only one answer: "Mainly the scale of the next terrorist attack."