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Does anyone really think it is possible to reach a settlement with the Palestinians that will guarantee peace between us?
I can understand that there are those who believe it may be possible to reach a settlement. And I can understand that there are those who hope it is possible to reach a settlement. But does anyone really think it is possible to make peace with the Palestinians - I mean, really think so?
How can one not see the rift among them, their inability to administer their own lives, Fatah's helplessness, Hamas's abysmal hatred, the murderousness of the popular resistance organizations, the destructive influence of radical Islam, the interference of Iran and the belief - so deeply rooted in almost every Arab heart - that, sooner or later, Israel will disappear off the map?
How can anyone see all that and still think there is a chance for a peace settlement? Or that all the different Palestinian factions, so hostile not only to us but to each other, will somehow find a way to cooperate in order to reach a settlement with Israel?
EVEN IF Israel agreed to withdraw to the 1967 borders (and it doesn't); even if Israel agreed to allow the refugees to return to Israel within the 1967 borders (and it doesn't); would Hamas ever recognize the right of a Jewish state to exist in the heart of the Muslim Middle East?
After all, Hamas's entire raison d'etre is founded on its refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. Its members would sooner convert to Judaism than relinquish that principle.
True, anything is possible. But not in the foreseeable future. Not in this generation. And if not the Palestinians, then radical Islam will make sure there is no peace agreement with Israel.
Iran on one side and al-Qaida on the other are threatening not only Israel, but the regimes in Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well. Israel isn't even their first target, it is their last.
WHAT SHOULD we conclude from all this? That the time has come to emigrate from Israel? Maybe give in to the Arabs' demands? Perhaps put an end to the Zionist enterprise and close up shop?
Never. Israel will continue to exist and flourish, as it has existed and flourished since the establishment of the state, thanks, among other reasons, to the Arab boycott, which forced it to export computer software to America and Europe instead of making plastic toys for the market in Damascus. (Did any of us ever imagine that the shekel might one day become stronger than the dollar, or that we would export more than we import?)
Yet, while the leaders of the Islamic countries have not accepted Israel's existence in principle, they have accepted it in fact - and only because they know they cannot wipe Israel off the map without themselves being wiped off as well.
And that, rather than any pie-in-the-sky, illusory hope for the brotherhood of nations, is the basis for the relationship between us. In the entire Muslim world, numbering over a billion people, one would be hard-pressed to find even a dozen willing to stand up and justify Israel's existence.
THIS DOES not mean we should forget about striving for peace. We must behave as if we believed that it was possible to achieve a peace settlement. Why? Because if we do not strive for peace, the result will be war. And we do not want war.
But even as we strive for peace, even if we follow the road map, we mustn't delude ourselves. We won't arrive at peace, not here.
But it may be possible to reach a modus vivendi, a balance of terror and a balance of mutual interests that will enable us to lead our lives more or less normally. And not just for a year or two, but for generations.
If we foster no illusions, we won't be disappointed.
The writer is a former Knesset member.
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