Both religious and secular Zionists wanted to establish a Jewish state specifically in the land of Israel because not only is this land the Jewish people’s because it says so in the Torah, but because the Jewish people have a historic connection to the land of Israel. It was ours and we never gave it up – our absence was due to persecution and expulsion. The United Nations, in an attempt to appease the Arabs, only gave the Jewish people some of their land back. Some they designated for the Arabs.
Although they wouldn’t get historic Judea and Samaria on the Jordan River’s West Bank, the Jews accepted what they could get. The Arabs, facing the same dilemma of not getting all the land they wanted, rejected the deal and threatened to go to war with a Jewish state if the Jews accepted the deal and declared their independence. They carried through on this threat, but lost the war. The Jews took their land and successfully defended it. Israel was conflicted with what to do with this land and the Arabs that lived in it. In 1970 a group called Gush Emunim successfully lobbied the left wing Labor led government to build the first settlement in Judea and Samaria, called Gush Etzion. As the years carried on and Israelis suffered housing shortages, the Arabs refused to make peace, Israelis saw no benefit in allowing the land to lay empty and settlements grew. Also, according to international law, Israel was required to give the land it conquered back to the nations it conquered it from once peace was established. The problem was that Israel didn’t have anyone to make peace with. The Arabs turned down Israel’s request for peace with their infamous three “no’s” – no negotiations with Israel, no peace with Israel, and no recognition of Israel. In addition, Jordan and Egypt weren’t the owners of the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria on the Jordan River’s West Bank, so they couldn’t give it to them anyway.
The arguments above for maintaining the land are very compelling, but there are also arguments against the settlement of the land. Critics of Israel’s settler movement offer a number of criticisms of Israel’s settler movement. First, the West Bank/Judea and Samaria don’t belong to Israel or its people, it was given to the Arabs by the UN. Israel is stealing and illegally occupying land that isn’t theirs. Second, the more homes Israel builds in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria the less likely it is that Israel will move out of the West Bank in any peace deal. Lastly, with increased Israeli building comes increased Palestinian frustration at ever seeing their own independence, and they resort to terror.
I believe that both arguments pose very valid points. This being said, I see true benefit for both sides with a clear solution. I don’t think that actual people should settle on the land, but they should use it to grow crops and build structures to support their lives. This way when peace is established, no one is out of the home, the land has more value and the Jews get good use out of it in the meantime. Simply giving the land to the Arabs would only leave Israel at a disadvantage, so this would be a simply uneducated decision.