for many years, Israel has been under the basic assumption that there is no common ground to be found in the Middle East. This assumption is derived from the beginning of Israel’s history; when it turned out that the Arab world did not accept the existence of the Jewish homeland, the basic equation became “If Israel exists, the Arabs lose, and vice versa.”The Israeli psyche was shaped by the prevalence of such feelings over several decades, and assumes that one side’s well-being is the other’s disadvantage. The idea of a common good, of a win-win situation, where all sides stand to gain from cooperation has disappeared from our horizon. Israelis’ deepest fear is to be “freiers,” the Hebrew word for suckers, losers. The very idea that you can gain from cooperation, that there is a common good, is rejected as being naive and stupid.
This is the tragedy of this country’s psyche: It has lost hope that politics can be anything but a zero-sum game. This is why Israel keeps electing leaders who are divisive, who emphasize power over cooperation, conflict over shared humanity. This is why the right has been gaining power steadily for a decade.