The frontier idiom on borders and territorial politics in post-1967 Israel

Adriana Kemp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article deals with the political and cultural practices whereby the blurring of territorial borders became an inextricable part of Jewish nationalism in Israel after the 1967 war and until the early 1990s. Drawing on a constructivist approach that conceives of territorial borders as social and cultural constructs, I suggest that the liminal geopolitical situation of non-annexation/non-withdrawal in which Israel has been involved since 1967 can be understood with reference to the frontier cultural idiom that has structured Israeli politics and collective imagination when dealing with the nation's 'geo-body'. The article analyzes the Labor government discourse on territories and borders from 1967 until it lost power in 1977 to show how the frontier idiom became a dominant mechanism, structuring the tracks along which the territorial occupation was both perceived and implemented. It proceeds to show the ways in which the frontier idiom remained a central component of a territorial politics that crossed political parties and factions after the Labor party lost power. The frontier idiom in which territoriality in Israel is embedded places in question the self-evident assumption of the literature on nationalism, according to which the territorial state is inevitably the final goal of modern nationalism. It challenges the 'congruence' assumption epitomized in the notion of the nation-state as a 'power container' where discrete political and national boundaries overlap or aim to do so. Such an assumption stems from reified notions of space and borders prevalent in mainstream socio-political theory that a constructivist approach seeks to transcend.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-97
Number of pages20
JournalGeography Research Forum
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Borders
  • Constructivist approach
  • Frontier idiom
  • Frontier nationalism
  • Israeli Labor movement
  • Settler societies
  • Territorial politics


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