Since the Israeli-Arab conflict began, argues Einat Wilf, the key point of contention has not been how to divide a small territory between two peoples but the Arab refusal to accept a Jewish state as a permanent feature in the Middle East. She writes:
[The Western understanding of the conflict] fails to take account of . . . the Arab and Muslim countdown until the end of Zionism and the state of Israel. That countdown reflects the prevailing Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian view that Zionism is a historical aberration that will not—and must not—last. Any Israeli effort to [withdraw from the West Bank] in a manner that would bring it peace and security thus clashes with the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian view that no place for compromise and agreement exists that would grant legitimacy to Zionism and the state of Israel and that would accept its permanence. . . .
The humiliating defeat of five Arab armies in 1967, and the loss of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula in a short span of six days did nothing to change the basic Arab mythology of the temporary nature of Israel. While the Western world was establishing the formula of “land for peace,” the Arab world clarified its rejection of it. What appeared to make sense to much of the West—that land acquired by Israel in the Six-Day War was a valuable asset that could be traded for the long-desired peace with the Arab world—made no sense to those who still considered the state of Israel temporary.
Even when the “land for peace” formula was employed, as in the peace agreement with Egypt, . . . subsequent decades demonstrated that [such agreements] were closer to “we-will-no-longer-attack-one-another” agreements than to peace. The Arab world remained unable to treat the Jewish state as a genuine legitimate presence in its midst. . . .
It is [therefore] necessary to demonstrate to the Muslim-Arab world that its view of history is wrong, and that rather than constituting a second crusader state, Israel is the sovereign state of an indigenous people who have come home. This can only be achieved through Jewish power and persistence over time. And given the vast numerical imbalance between Jews and Arabs, it can only be achieved if those who truly seek peace support the Jewish people in sending the message to the Arab world that the Jewish people are here to stay.