I am really gratified by the intelligent, respectful, and passionate responses to my posting on this subject. I would like to take the opportunity to comment on some of the observations made directly about my remarks (as the comments took on a life of their own).
1) There is serious difference between pegging the significance of the state to an imminent, unstoppable redemption and responding to a desire to advance the redemption. I was referring to the former, not the latter. Both can accomodate saying 'Reshit Tzmihat Ge'ulatenu.'
2) I am well aware that it was Agnon who coined this phrase, and that he did so in consultation with Rav Herzog. The issue is the valence that one attributes to the words, and it is here that I suggest that the crisis of faith faced by many members of our community may be found. By attributing absolute value (and not utilitarian value) to the government (as cogently pointed out by Rabbi Yosef Blau-whose participation I gratefully acknowledge) many of us have maneuvered ourself into a potentially tragic 'make or break' situation from a faith point of view.
3) Attributing absolute redemptive value to the State and acting based on deep Emunah and vision are not the same. Obviously, those who came here from the time of the Gra's disciples on were driven by an exalted vision. The Rov zt"l , whose Zionism was deeply religious and non-messianic, discusses exactly this dimension of the Jewish national revival in Fir Droshes (aka Hamesh Drashot and The Rav Speaks). [BTW, it is very true that the Rov's Zionism was decidedly Reines-like, thoug I seriously doubt whether he would have gone so far as to support Herzl's Uganda Plan, as R. Reines did. The Rov place too much emphasis on Eretz Yisrael to do so, IMHO.]
4) One can oppose Sharon's unilateral retreat without de-legitimizing the whole Zionist enterprise from a religious point of view.