Leading Israeli psychologists are pushing a Middle East new peace initiative based on their understanding of past failures being due to “deep-rooted psychological barriers such as fear, hate and lack of trust”.
The research, through the Arik Foundation, found that those living through conflict survive by forming a kind of psychological self-defence mechanism, which in turn relies on the perpetuation of that conflict – creating a vicious cycle.
“These emotional and psychological self-defenses rely on the perpetuation of the conflict and produce diverse reasons for why the conflict cannot be solved,” says Yitzhak Frankenthal, whose son was murdered by Hamas in 1994.
“They thus eliminate their own responsibility for the conflict’s perpetuation. They lose sight of the fundamental precepts of compassion, peace and of understanding the other – precepts that underpin Judaism.”
Researchers say those in conflict grow to insist that it is they who are right, they who are the ultimate victims and they who have offered all the compromises, such that the solution lies in a better understanding of who and what the conflict serves.
“We realised that if the problem is psychological then the solution lies within the realms of psychology,” say the team, which comprises psychologists, researchers, strategists and communication experts whose work has just been published in The Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences.
The research was conducted with a group of Israeli participants, 59% of them saying they were right-wing. It showed that 33% of those who had defined themselves as right-wing changed their approach towards the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“They understood that Israel is not doing enough to achieve peace,” said a spokesman for the The Fund For Reconciliation, Tolerance & Peace.
“By the end, these Israelis were willing to make territorial compromises and some were even willing to make compromises on Jerusalem, one of the thorniest issues in any peace agreement.”
The end result, they say, is “a powerful, revolutionary tool that can lead to a thorough modification in Israel’s public opinions” and the next step is roll it out to the Israeli public. Whether they will be as receptive remains to be seen.