Needed: Psychological Transformation of Israeli Leaders
Israeli and Palestinian societies, along with the rest of the
world, are witnessing the collapse of the Road Map peace process.
It has become evident that this window of opportunity is closing,
without having generated the powerful momentum that could move both
societies towards the road to peace. A return to the vicious cycle
of violence, which will bring only suffering to both nations, looks
likely. As usual, each side will blame the other for the failure.
That is just the propaganda war, which will not resolve the major
problems of the region and which will only fuel the conflict.
Strategically, it is in Israel's interest to resolve the conflict
peacefully, in a way that will satisfy the Palestinians' basic
needs. A solution must be found, not only because of the
demographic threat that may turn Jews into a minority in their own
country, but also for moral, social and economic reasons. Israel
will not flourish economically, will not be able to solve its
problems of poverty, welfare, health or transportation and will not
be able to invest in education and culture. Nor will it be able to
become a fully democratic and moral society or find its place among
the nations, until it resolves the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,
which is a cancer in its heart.
The conflict is a complex one. Both sides have legitimate
arguments, although each believes only it has right on its side.
Regardless of this, it is imperative that the conflict be resolved
by dividing the territory both claim as their homeland. In view of
the history of the region, the only moral and practical solution is
to give the Palestinians the 22 percent they deserve (land occupied
by Israel in 1967), to evacuate the settlements and solve the
refugee problem in a moral and practical way. Only this solution
will satisfy the basic needs of the majority of Palestinians. Any
other solution, such as one Israel forced on the Palestinian
leadership, would leave the conflict open.
Such a move would require Israeli leaders to undergo a major
psychological transformation, given that many of them continue to
believe in the Jewish people's exclusive rights to the land. They
rely on Israel's military might, consider the Palestinians inferior
and view the Israeli people as eternal victims of history. They
believe Israel is doing the majority of the giving and receiving
little in return. They need to realize that continuing the conflict
is the most destructive thing they could do to Israeli society. De
Gaulle and De Klerk had this type of understanding. These leaders,
who were on the "mighty" side, understood that continuing the
conflict would eventually destroy their countries. Even though they
had most of "the cards" in their hands, they did the majority of
the "giving" to save their nations, in spite of the fact that many
in their societies believed that would be self destructive.
Our current situation can only be resolved if Israeli leaders
dramatically change their views of the conflict, of the
Palestinians, of the benefits of peace and of the costs of war.
Israel today may hold most of the cards; it has the almost
unconditional support of the world's only superpower, it is the
major military power in the region, it occupies most of the land,
controls every aspect of Palestinian life, has a relatively strong
economy, and has the support of world Jewry, Europe and many other
countries. So only Israel has the power to change the situation
dramatically. It can give the Palestinians respect, dignity,
self-determination, equality, security and, above all, freedom. All
these are necessary for each individual and for every collective.
Satisfying basic needs will persuade the majority of Palestinians
to accept peace and stop the violence, as moral claims and violent
acts are the only cards they hold. Israeli Jews deserve security
too. It is a fundamental need that is very hard to live without.
But it is sad that they do not see a connection between depriving
Palestinians of their basic needs and evil and deplorable acts of
Current Israeli leaders do not see the situation this way, and are
supported in this by military, religious and nationalist
organizations. They construct justifications for continuous
confrontation. Even the terrible use of terror by the Palestinians
cannot explain continuing settlement expansion, the destruction of
Palestinians' societal, economic and physical infrastructure, or
turning their daily life into a nightmare. The sad thing is that
many Israeli Jews have accepted the explanations why they should
not "yield" to the basic demands of the Palestinians and the
justifications the Israeli government gives for using brutal and
immoral measures against them. One day, it will be possible to look
back and see the terribly foolish way Israel has been led. But in
the meantime, the price will be paid not only by the Palestinians,
but also by Israeli society, at the individual and at the
collective level. The question should therefore be asked by every
Israeli Jew: Are we condemned to be led into deterioration,
disintegration, misery and pain?