If there is anything that we've learned over the last century, yes, century (the Balfour Declaration was written in 1917 which is 104 years ago), it is that the idea of land for peace is an illusion if one of the two sides doesn't want peace.
Yet, today we hear many people making the claim that Israel has done, "...nothing to meaningfully engage in peace." Nothing? NOTHING? NOTHING?!
Let's do a quick review before I lose my mind and become incoherent:
From 70 AD to 136 AD, the Romans drove out every single Jewish person that they could from the land of Israel. They destroyed it's Holy sites, they smashed it's governmental fixtures, and they imported as many non-Jewish people as they could to resettle the land. This was done in response to two major Jewish revolts. This is also when the land was named "Syria Palaestina" as a way to cut the Jewish connection to the land.
Then, as the History Channel points out, "For the next several centuries, the land of modern-day Israel was conquered and ruled by various groups, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, Islamists and others." It would eventually end up as a part of the Ottoman Empire, and then it would be given over the Britain as part of the peace treaty that ended World War I.
From 1918 to 1922, Britain and the League of Nations debated on the Balfour Declaration and finally approved it. This declaration, and the ensuing "carving up" of the land (the first part of land for peace) was intended to create both a Jewish state and a home for the Palestinian people.
The Palestinians would find a home in Trans-Jordan, who was to be given more than half of the land in exchange for their accepting of the Palestinian people. They took the land, they didn't want to take the people, and for a long time, didn't.
So, to fast forward history, you have some wars and fighting, a declaration of a Jewish State in 1947, some additional fighting, and then the big one that leads to the photo that headlines this piece, the Six Days War.
In this 1967 war, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon all set up a major offensive against Israel in order to take the land back from the Jews in order to give it to the Palestinians (which really was just them attempting to renege on their promise to take the people in exchange for land under the Balfour Declaration). They were decimated and by the end Israel looked like the far left image above. They had captured the Sanai, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. They had won the fight that they didn't start, and should have enjoyed the spoils.
Yet, that didn't happen. Particularly because Egypt and Syria invaded again on the Jewish Holy Day of Yom Kippur in 1973, but after tensions settled, however, there would be a land give back.
This foundational part of Land for Peace comes from the Camp David Accords which were spurred for, and called by, then President Jimmy Carter. In this 1979 peace treaty, Israel would give back the Saini Peninsula in exchange for Egyptian recognition and the ability to use the Suez Canal.
Unfortunately this agreement was not only dishonored by the other Arab states, but it ultimately led to the assassination of Egypt's President Anwar Sadat who signed it.
This treaty led to ever intensifying terrorist attacks from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and their leader Yasser Arafat. Yasser, an Egyptian fighter who rose to lead the organization, was disgusted by what he viewed as his country's "betrayal" of Palestine, and so he left to join the fight against Israel.
This led to the the Lebanon war of 1982, which, incidentally, was the first time the nation of Palestine or the nationality of the Palestinians were formally put forward. Yep, prior to 1982 there were no Palestinians. Not formally anyway.
Between then and now, Israel has repeatedly given land in every major peace negotiation including those with American Presidents, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush, those with other countries such as Britain and the UN, only to have to retake it again after giving it in order to stop attacks on its citizens from those same areas that they gave up for peace.
The most famous of the peace deals being the Clinton negotiations on a formalized peace treaty in which Israel was willing to return the Golan Heights, the West Bank, allow the return of all Palestinian "refugees," grant citizenship to all Palestinians, and pledge to economically develop the areas historically occupied by the Palestinian people, and to draw down troop levels and a ton of other things too detailed to list here.
Yasser Arafat famously walked away from the table because he didn't get one thing in his list of demands, that was a split authority over the city of Jerusalem. That's it. The "Intifada," or shaking off, that followed those second Camp David talks in 2000, led to a massive terrorism outbreak in Israel and would last another five years until 2005.
I could go on, but the end result is that every time Israel has given land for peace, they have been attacked again and have had to retake that same land. While in Israel, I was talking to a Jewish man living in the Galilee region who asked, "how many times must we spill Israeli blood taking the same soil just so we can live in peace?"
This sums up the current state of affairs pretty well in my opinion.
Since Israel took back the Golan Heights from Syria, there has been a massive decrease in the number of missile and rocket attacks from Syria into Israel. They have a harder time aiming over the heights, and it gives Israel a strategic point from which to preempt any offensive from that side of the border when they see the missiles set up.
This is, ostensibly, the same thing that they are looking to do with the west bank. By pushing the Palestinians out and into Jordan (where they were supposed to be in the first place), they force them to fire their rockets across the sea of Galilee. This both decreases accuracy and increases range. It also places such attacks outside of the rocket's ability to hit targets in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. I can't blame them for it, particularly after all of the terrorism that they've had to face.
Imagine how Canada would respond if some American militia started lobbing rockets and missiles into Toronto with claims that it was their home prior to Britain giving Canada their independence.
Imagine Mexico's response if Guatemala started launching rockets and missiles into Tuxtla Gutierrez while claiming that Spain had no right to give Mexico that land as their people used to live on it too.
What would Spain do if Portugal decided to launch rocket and missile attacks on Badajoz while claiming that since the King of Portugal had once ruled it, it's their displaced home and they want it back.
Not one of those countries would put up with half of the nonsense that we've asked Israel to put up with. Their citizens wouldn't live under half of the threat that the Israeli citizens have to live under. Their politicians would do everything in their power to end the violence against their people, even nuclear weapons wouldn't be off the table.
Yet some people "demand" that Israel just take it? They demand that Israel stop targeting Hamas? They demand that Israel once again give back the land that they had to win in order to be safe so that they can be unsafe again?
The end result of it all is that there have been more chances for the fighting to end than there have been for the fighting to continue. Had they kept the Balfour Doctrine, had they signed on to/kept the Camp David Accords, had they honored their agreements with Reagan or Bush, had they not walked away from Clinton, had they honored the Oslo Accords, et al, we wouldn't be here today, but here we are.
I refuse to blame the Israelis for defending themselves against those who want to wipe them off of the face of the Earth. I would do the same in their shoes.
I refuse to condemn a people for doing exactly what I would do in the same situation.