The Israeli Left has been divided, at times, over whether to emphasize the Palestinian problem or religious coercion. In his latest book, American-Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg, who is himself a practicing modern Orthodox Jew, links the two issues. His basic theme is that Israel is threatened by anachronistic elements in Zionism, an argument made previously by Bernard Avishai in his first book, The Tragedy of Zionism.
Both contend that Israel as an independent state should not behave like a national liberation movement. The settlement project in the West Bank is a state effort carried out as if it were still the late 1930s or the late 1940s and the religious settlers were setting the boundaries of the state as the Labor Zionists did in the "tower & stockade" period.
The core of Gorenberg’s book is about the settlement project on the West Bank and how it threatens Israeli democracy and survival. From there he goes to examining how the settlers have established a presence in the IDF and threaten it as the Etzel (a/k/a Irgun) threatened the newborn state in June 1948 with the Altalena incident (he skims over a similar perceived threat from the Palmakh). Gorenberg makes a good case that, as presently constituted, the IDF will be unable to carry out an order to evacuate settlers from West Bank settlements in the event of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Thomas Mitchell is an independent scholar and blogger on a number of subjects, including Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians. He blogs at the Self-Hating Gentile.