Israel’s leaders appear to have developed a previously unheard-of malady, one so
acute it threatens to overwhelm both their mental faculties and common sense. It
is what I refer to as “Peace-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PETS), and its symptoms
are fairly easy to discern.
Like any anxiety condition, it can be traced
to a harrowing and life-threatening event: the signing of the disastrous Oslo
accords with the Palestinians nearly two decades ago. The terror and bloodshed
brought on by that dubious deal with Yasser Arafat, along with as its profound
failure to bring peace, seem to have left deep psychological marks on its
proponents, clouding their ability to think clearly about Israel’s current
But whereas most of those who suffer from stress disorders
seek to avoid any reminders of the original ordeal, victims of PETS ironically
follow a different path.
Indeed, they seem compelled to embrace the
trauma, and even to relive it.
Take, for example, Defense Minister Ehud
Barak, one of PETS’ most high-profile casualties.
In a speech to the
Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on May 30, Barak’s
affliction was on full display.
“We must aim to discuss all of the core
issues, putting an end to the conflict, and an end to mutual claims,” he said,
adding, “if this appears to be impossible, we need to think of an interim
agreement, and even unilateral actions.”
NEEDLESS TO say, Barak’s remarks
were completely detached from reality, and given the fact that he is tasked with
the nation’s defense, this is all the more disturbing.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has consistently refused to return
to talks with Israel and has repeatedly rejected the Jewish state’s pleas in
this regard. So it is difficult to comprehend with whom Barak expects to discuss
“all of the core issues” if there is no one who is willing to sit across the
Moreover, the very idea that Barak would raise the
prospect of “unilateral actions” is chilling in light of Israel’s calamitous
experience with such measures previously.
Barak himself was the prime
minister who ordered Israel’s unilateral retreat from Lebanon in 2000, which led
to a Hezbollah arms buildup and paved the way for the outbreak of the Second
Lebanon War in July 2006.
And what about the 2005 unilateral pull-out
from Gaza and the expulsion of the Jews from Gush Katif, which brought Hamas to
power and exposed southern Israel to unprecedented rocket fire? In both cases,
Israel implemented a policy of unilateral withdrawal, and it blew up in our
Since Barak is widely praised for his keen intelligence and sharp
analytical skills, the only explanation for his invoking the possibility of
Israel taking still more such measures must be that he is suffering from PETS.
Rather than coming to terms with the past and learning from it, he is seeking to
press the “rewind button” and repeat the mistakes of
Likewise, the current government seems determined to recreate
the trauma of forcibly removing Jews from their homes by pushing forward with
plans to evacuate families from the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El before the
end of the month.
In doing so, they are consciously ignoring the fact
that previous expulsions, such as those from Amona in February 2006, painfully
sharpened divisions within Israeli society and undermined efforts to strengthen
our national cohesion and unity.
Every time the Israeli government has
uprooted Jews, it has only played right into the hands of our foes, who view
such measures as a sign of weakness and frailty.
This has encouraged them
to be more obstinate and inflexible in their demands, further lessening the
already trivial chances of reaching some sort of
Nonetheless, that has not stopped the present governing
coalition, which now runs the risk of provoking further intra-Jewish conflict by
dispatching bulldozers to Beit El.
Clearly, this is another case of PETS
What is needed now is for our leadership to get some serious
help. It is time for them to acknowledge the disorder with which they are
afflicted, accept it, overcome it and move on. For nearly 20 years, since
Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, Israel has
tried negotiations and concessions, unilateral moves and concrete
We have turned over territory, evacuated portions of our
ancient homeland, and endured unparalleled terror and hate.
None of it
has worked, and to continue banging our heads against the wall will only result
in still more headaches.
All of this brings to mind a famous skit by
comedian Eddie Murphy which went something like this: “those horror movies are
really scary,” he said. “But you know what I was wondering about them? I was
watching movies like Poltergeist and Amityville Horror. Why don’t the people
just get the hell out?” Some of Israel’s leaders appear to be stuck in the
diplomatic equivalent of a haunted house, one where the ghost of a false peace
continues to spook their psyches.
It is time to break out from under
peace-traumatic stress disorder, and dispel the ghosts. Instead of looking for
ways to give up parts of the Land of Israel, let’s reinforce our hold on every
part of it. That, after all, is what any healthy nation would do.
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