וַֽהֲשִׁמֹּתִי אֲנִי אֶת־הָאָרֶץ – And I will bring the land into desolation.
Rashi, basing himself on the Sifra, comments on this verse: This is a good dispensation for the Israelites, for the enemies will not find any gratification in their land, since it will be desolate of its inhabitants.
The Land of Israel cannot be built by just any people or group. Only the Jewish people possess the capacity to transform it into a settled land and to make the desolate waste bloom. This divine promise became a miraculous fact in the history of the Land of Israel during various periods. We must not forget, even for a moment, that the Land of Israel drew the nations of the world—Christian and Muslim alike—like a magnet. The medieval Crusades were undertaken for the purpose of conquering the Land of Israel and colonizing it with a Christian population. All of the efforts of the Crusaders were in vain, and they did not take root in the land. Even the Muslims, who were already in the land, did not succeed in colonizing it properly. (Kol Dodi Dofek, p. 77)
Those who exile the Jewish people and replace them as residents of Eretz Yisrael will reside in a desolate land. They will starve because the land will not give of itself to them. Our enemies drove our ancestors out of Jerusalem. They set fire to it and destroyed the Beis Hamikdash, but they never colonized or populated it. Mount Zion was desolate for a very long time, and despite many attempts, not a single nation, not one other people, ever succeeded in establishing a state in Eretz Yisrael. Many peoples were eager and ready to colonize it. It is a land considered holy by Muslims and Christians. It was occupied by many powers— by Rome, later by Byzantium, by the Muslims, by the Crusaders, and then by the Muslims again. It changed hands so many times, but no one developed Eretz Yisrael, neither agriculturally, industrially, or scientifically.
Earlier, in the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, entire continents and huge stretches of land like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were colonized and settled by the British. They took desert country, jungle, and converted it into blossoming gardens. They brought civilization to pagans. Yet the same British could not colonize Eretz Yisrael. It is a special land, an eretz chemdah. With the exception of a small colony here and there, no one was able to colonize it on a grand scale. Eretz Yisrael remained a desolate land.
Contrast this to the flourishing of the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael. It is a very young yishuv, in existence only since the turn of the twentieth century. And yet see what its members have accomplished! Apparently there is a sense of loyalty on the part of the land that she will never betray her people, she will not give herself up to strangers or to conquerors. She will save herself only for the people to whom Eretz Yisrael belongs. (The Lord is Righteous, pp. 58-59)