Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is going on the offensive, accusing Mitt Romney of not just being bad for Israel, but of being an existential threat to the future of the Jewish state.
"I think that Mitt Romney would be game over for Israel’s existence," he said at a panel discussion co-sponsored Tuesday by the Arab American Institute and J Street, "because just allowing us to follow what Netanyahu wants and not to try to force the process into bringing about a two-state solution will lead to Israel’s nonexistence."
He said that such a path "inevitably will result in a war," warning that nuclear weapons could be involved.
Cohen had earlier said that he thought President Obama would continue to work on bringing about peace between Israelis and Palestinians. "I think President Obama can achieve this, and it will be one of his great legacies to the world," he said.
He suggested that supporting a two-state solution is integral to being pro-Israel. "Israel cannot continue to exist with the status quo beause time is not on their side," he said, citing Arab population growth in the West Bank and Israel, and the activity of Jewish settlers.
And he said that the yearnings for freedom that have driven Arab Spring will likely come to the West Bank.
"People have to accept that the people in the West Bank have a right to self-government and that they are human beings, and there are some people in the American political sphere that I don’t think view the Palestinians as human beings, and it’s a shame," he said.
Fellow panelist Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, also stressed the "urgency" of achieving a two-state solution. "If a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not achieved in the next president’s term, I am not convinced that there will be a two-state solution available to the next administration or the administration beyond that," he said.
Other participants included James Zogby of the Arab-American and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), as well as Sen. Dick Durbin (I-Ill.), who dropped in and spoke briefly.
Ellison, like his fellow panelists, stressed the importance of resolving the conflict.
"The people who have said historically that the only problem in the Middle East is the Israel-Palestine conflict, I believe have been demonstrated to be wrong, because look at the Arab Spring, whole lot of problems being worked out right there," he said. "But the people who think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with the problems of the Middle East are also wrong, too. At the end of the day, it is America’s national interest to resolve this conflict."