Israel is a relatively small country. It encompasses 20,770 square kilometres. It has almost 300 kilometres of coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, and is bordered by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. In addition to Israel proper, since 1967 areas known as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights have been under Israeli control. In the summer of 2005, Israel began the process of pulling civilians and military personnel out of the Gaza Strip and portions of the West Bank. The land itself ranges from quite fertile to large areas that are completely unsuitable for agriculture. In fact, less than 20 percent of the territory is arable, meaning that competition for quality land is one source of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Water is also limited and therefore extremely valuable. Water sources such as the Jordan River are vital to the well-being of the population and competition for them will likely be the source of future conflicts occurring in the Middle East.
The physical geography of the country also presents difficult military security problems. Since its inception, the State of Israel has been surrounded by hostile Arab states. The country with its boundaries defined at its independence is not easily defended, with key industries and large population centres within a short distance of potential enemies. Because of this, Israel has attempted to gain and keep control of certain key areas, such as the Golan Heights, which play an important role in defensive planning.
Finally, the land itself has deep religious significance for people of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths. It contains many of the holy sites of all three of these religions, making the dispute between Jews and Arabs in the area all the more bitter as it involves not just land in the physical sense, but a deeply spiritual connection to the holy sites.