Zertal’s and Eldar’s Lords of the Land is an attempt to provide a comprehensive history of the settlement movement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the 1967 Six Days War. Their study ends in 2007, after the unilateral disengagement of Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Their thesis is simple. Religious Zionist settlers have been engaged in the illegal activity of settling Gaza, the West Bank, or Judah and Samaria in their parlance, almost immediately after the capture of the territories after the war. And nearly everyone in Israeli society, but particularly its various governments, both left and right, has been complicit in the illegal takeover of Palestinian lands.
The author’s see the motivation of this as multifaceted. The first is ineptitude. The Labor Party had no clear policy on the captured territories after the war, and were guided by nostalgia and muddled thinking regarding religious Zionist settlement. The right wing under Begin were supposed to be more lenient toward the settlement movement, but when it came time for negotiations with Egypt, did not have qualms about removing settlements in the Sinai, as Sharon would have little qualms doing the same in Gaza in 2006. The settlement movement found itself outside the mainstream of Israeli politics, a place it enjoyed. From their, they could act with impunity.
And through it all, the settlement movement maintained its steadfast commitment to more illegal settlements and outposts, threatening not only the peace process, but Israel’s democratic structures.
The authors go out of their way to show the settlers, and their movement, in the most unflattering light. With their messianic zeal and uncompromising positions, their view, in the author's eyes, of the dream of Israel's destiny is one more shabby mobile home atop the Hebron Hills. Is this really how the dream of Greater Israel has manifested itself?