Study: Israelis resisted intifada's psychological warfare

"This [phenomenon] perhaps expresses most succinctly the resilience of Israeli society."

ambulances, bombing 298 (photo credit: )
ambulances, bombing 298
(photo credit: )
"If the intifada was supposed to undermine the foundations of Israeli society and to bring it to a state of imbalance and destabilization, it has failed," reports Meir Elran, the author of a new study released by the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. According to the study, titled "Israel's National Resilience: The Influence of the Second Intifada on Israeli Society," Israel's social networks were stable and Israelis remained basically optimistic throughout the years of Palestinian terrorism since 2000. The premise underlying the study - that the Palestinian intifada was primarily a psychological offensive against Israeli society - is an accurate one, according to Col. (res.) Eran Lerman, a former senior officer in the IDF's intelligence directorate. "From day one, the dual purpose of the violent Palestinian effort was, on the one hand, to break the spirit of Israeli society and, on the other, to goad the government and the IDF into actions so brutal and so shocking as to bring about the collapse of Israel's legitimacy in the world," he told The Jerusalem Post. "In both respects, psychological warfare was the key." Oren, a Hebrew University student, expressed a similar and, according to the study, widely-held view of the conflict when he told the Post that "the Palestinians tried to break us, but we stood up to it." Working with that assumption, the study assessed three parameters for determining Israelis' response to the terror wave: the stability of Israeli social institutions, the flexibility of the psychological responses to the traumatic events and the over-all optimism Israelis felt regarding the future. In the wake of the most virulent suicide attacks between 2001 and 2004, Israeli reactions were almost uniformly a return to routine. In the immediate aftermath of attacks, "when the scope of the terror attacks decreased," the study reads, "it was evident [that Israelis underwent] a release from the tension and a return from defensive [responses] to routine behavioral patterns. "This [phenomenon] perhaps expresses most succinctly the resilience of Israeli society: the flexibility of [Israelis'] reactions [to terrorism] point to a high capacity for adaptation and an ability to cope with the threat," the study concludes. In examining the effects of the terrorism on Israelis' optimism, the study has similar conclusions, finding that "even in the most difficult periods, the Israeli public as a whole believed that it has the ability to withstand the Palestinian onslaught." Echoing Oren and, according to the study, the majority of Israelis, Lerman concluded that "Israeli society rose to the challenge despite heartbreak and pain, resisted the temptation to do too much, and refused to break under the strain