The Israeli Ethos of Conflict 1967-2006




Oren, Neta

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School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution


This study focuses on a major component of the psychological repertoire that evolves during an intractable conflict – the ethos of conflict and the changes in this ethos over time. The study presents a theoretical framework that can be used to analyze and explain changes in ethos of intractable conflict, and also refers to the relationship between changes in the ethos and policy preferences in the realm of conflict resolution. The study then uses the Arab-Israeli conflict and related ethos as a case study for the application of this framework. Analysis of Israeli opinion polls, cultural products and political platforms revealed that during the years 1977 until 2000 some of the beliefs that comprised the Israeli ethos of conflict lost their status as widely held societal beliefs (for example beliefs rejecting the Palestinian claims to self-determination). Other beliefs retained their place in the conflict ethos but their support in the Israeli public diminished (beliefs extolling the prestige of the Israeli military). Still other beliefs, specifically about peace and about the nature of the existential threat to Israel, significantly changed their content. These changes in turn intensified the internal contradictions between the beliefs in the ethos. After an initial suppression and denial, the Israeli society started acknowledging the inconsistencies among its ethos values (for instance, maintaining a Jewish majority, democracy, and peace) and tried to solve them by changing the context that was activating the inconsistencies. The end result of all of the changes described above was a reduced tendency to consider the conflict as a sum-zero game, an increase of motivation to end the conflict, and of optimism about finding a solution – the two main conditions producing ripeness for conflict resolution. However, the events of 2000 with the eruption of the Second Intifada and its violence reversed the trend and restrengthened some of the societal beliefs in the ethos of conflict, which caused the current decrease in Israeli optimism and motivation to end the conflict.



Arab-Israeli Conflict