The first settlers after the 1967 War established settlements as part of asserting Jewish control over all of Palestine, which they called "Eretz Israel," or the "Land of Israel." Later settlers, and the governments who supported them, claimed the settlements, especially those in the Jordan Valley, played a vital role in protecting Israel from possible attack from Arab states to the east.
In the 1990s "yuppie settlers," uninterested in nationalist or religious rationales and concerned only with the amenities of settler life, became the majority; most indicated they would be willing to give up their homes if they were properly compensated. But increasingly, the minority of ideologically driven settlers became far more powerful than their numbers, especially within the ranks of the right-wing Likud Bloc led by Binyamin Netanyahu and then by Ariel Sharon. Holding on to the settlements, even the most isolated, became an article of faith and a domestic political necessity for one Israeli government after another. Sharon himself said that Netzarim, a tiny isolated settlement in Gaza, was "the same as Tel Aviv" in importance.
Beyond the politics and the largely hyperbolic claims of military protection, the settlements do play one important role in Israeli national life. They allow the diversion of almost all of the West Bank water sources, its underground aquifers, to Israeli settlements and ultimately into Israel itself. Indigenous Palestinians, farmers on parched land and villagers with insufficient water pressure even for a household tap, pay the price for the diversion of water, as they watch the settlements' sparkling swimming pools and verdant, sprinkler-watered lawns.