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They just want to destroy Israel and drive the Jews into the sea?


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They Say: It is impossible to make peace with Arabs or Muslims, because ultimately they just want to destroy Israel and drive the Jews into the sea.

We Say: Raising the specter of a merciless, anti-Semitic enemy, determined to destroy Israel, reflects either a lack of knowledge of current realities or a deliberate desire to mislead and manipulate.

Because this argument is so fraught with sentimental manipulation, it is important to make clear right off the bat: Modern Israel is not in danger of being pushed into the sea or destroyed by any Arab or Muslim state, or any combination thereof, or by the Palestinians, or by any terrorist organization. This is true even with respect to Iran. Israeli intelligence and security experts - like Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan - have stated clearly that, while Iran poses a serious threat, it doesn't pose an existential threat to Israel. Israel today has one of the strongest militaries in the world. It has nuclear weapons (although it prefers to maintain ambiguity about this). It has powerful intelligence services that operate far beyond its borders. And it has an unshakeable military alliance with the United States.

Yes, there are many in the Arab and Muslim worlds (and the rest of the world) who hate Israel, hate Jews, and want to see the Jewish state destroyed. And yes, there are some who are determined to act upon that hatred. However, there is every indication that there are far more in the Arab and Muslim worlds - including among the leadership of virtually every Arab state - who are prepared to live in peace with Israel and normalize relations with it, if Israel will resolve in a reasonable way its conflict with the Palestinians. The clearest evidence of this is the Arab Peace Initiative - an initiative first presented by the Saudis a decade ago, and subsequently adopted and repeatedly re-adopted by the Arab League. That initiative offers peace and normalization between Israel and the countries of the Arab world - with no requirement that Israel give up its qualitative military edge or otherwise open the door for allowing itself to be wiped off the map. That initiative was ignored and even scorned by Israel when it was launched, and has been pretty much ignored or treated as irrelevant since then.

With respect to future peace agreements, nobody can ask Israel to gamble with its security. Israel lives in a tough neighborhood and has legitimate security concerns. Nobody could seriously suggest that Israel should sign on to peace agreements that do not address these security concerns to Israel's satisfaction.

Those who truly care about Israel should differentiate between legitimate concerns and scare tactics and political manipulations. Many raise the specter of Israel's enemies wanting to push it into the sea for the clear purpose of distracting from Israel's existential need to make peace (and the compromises peace will require) with the Palestinians. Such people, it seems, care less about preserving a Jewish Israel and Israeli democracy - and basic features of a democracy like minority rights, women's rights, freedom of speech, freedom of protest, etc. - than they do about Israel expanding settlements and holding on to every inch of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In truth, the real existential threat facing Israel today is not external military power but rather the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the continued occupation of areas that must become a future Palestinian state. Israel cannot remain a Jewish state and a democracy if it rules, in perpetuity, over millions of Palestinians. Alarmingly, the window is closing on a two-state solution, which is the only solution that can allow Israel to remain both a Jewish state and a democracy. Moreover, there is a direct line connecting right-wing efforts to defend the settlement enterprise and expand it and the frightening erosion of basic democratic values and rights taking place in Israel today. Israel's viability as a Jewish state and a democracy is in genuine and immediate jeopardy.

It is perfectly legitimate to discuss and debate the strategic threats that Israel is facing. It is crass and cynical manipulation to exploit the traumas of the Jewish people - the historical persecution of Jews and the violence waged against Israel since its birth - in the service of an extremist ideological agenda that itself is a true existential threat to Israel.