Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007
By Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar
Nation Books, 2007, 576 pp.
After the Six-Day War, Israel could have negotiated a restoration of the territories conquered in return for a definitive peace settlement with its Arab neighbors. Instead, Israeli governments, sometimes by stealth, other times openly, permitted settlements in the land that the 1947 UN decision had set as the Palestinian portion of the proposed two states. Militant religio-nationalist Jewish settlers quickly moved onto what to them was the sacred land that God had commanded them to take. They have become "lords of the land" and a force significantly disproportionate to their numbers in Israeli politics. Such is the organizing theme of this hard-hitting study. Zertal and Eldar provide a chilling account of the settlers' messianic mindset, inspired as it was by the preaching of the rabbis Kook, father and son. They demonstrate the decisive tilt over the years of the Israeli military and the courts in favoring the settlers over the Palestinians. They show as well, adding to the complexity of this story, that many settlers are not religious zealots and that most Israelis are ambivalent toward the settlers and the settlements. Still, "facts on the ground" have been created since 1967, changing the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Lords of the Land provides a passionate and informed history of that change.