the Obama administration believes that the two sides are essentially rational, acting in their own best interests, and that to get the process unstuck the mediator must simply bridge their differences. Rather, it is clear to me as a psychologist that the two sides are steeped in collective trauma, for which the only prescription is diplomatic therapy.
The Palestinians have never been able to mourn what they call the Nakba. Israeli Jews live under a fear of annihilation that overshadows any consideration of compromise. Many critics of Israel believe that such a statement is a cheap ploy to justify colonial ambitions, but right or wrong this is the reality of the country’s collective psyche. Israelis still look back at the attacks by Arab armies in 1948, 1967 and 1973 as moments when they could have been wiped out, and this fear is revived today by the possibility of Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.
a therapeutic process may lead the Palestinians to realize that they have not just been passive victims. Israel’s Jews need to be able to voice their fear that Arabs will never accept the existence of Israel, and that the two-state solution is just a step toward its destruction. Therapeutic diplomacy will help them gradually accept their share of the responsibility for the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948. In this way both parties can come to realize that accepting the other’s narrative and point of view does not mean annihilation. Mr. Mitchell knows this type of process well from his time in Northern Ireland. The question is whether the administration is willing to take on this challenge for the long haul.