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Mission A Guide to Perplexed


by Eran Halperin Lecture  08.07.2012
Fear is considered to have an influential power on conflicts, because it is a psychological barrier difficult to overcome. It stands in the way of political conflict resolutions, which changes the general view to reach a solution.
First, we will explain fear in general, and then we will discuss its effects on a conflict. This will be done based on psychological theories and political sciences. Subsequently, we will work on a study to implement it on the Israeli issue, and review the effect of fear as a psychological barrier in the Israeli community on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.
Before discussing fear, it must be known that it is an element in all people and communities, which leads to different interactions during the conflict and affects solving it. Fear has developed in these societies due to historic events in their relationship with their enemy.
Definition of Fear:
Fear is experienced when a reality is threatened, but the threat in itself is not enough to experience this feeling. "Fear is usually associated with an appraisal of low strength and low control over the situation (Roseman, 1984). As such, it leads to increased risk estimates and pessimistic predictions (Lerner & Keltner, 2001)."[1]
For example: when a dog chases a person that is a threat which creates fear when the person thinks that he does not know how to deal with it. When one group living within others is threatened from another group, and the first group is not capable of handling that threat, the feeling of fear emerges. The solution is to decrease the amount of threats in all ways possible, but not necessarily the entire conflict with the other. It is sufficient to decrease the intensity of this threat, in order to reach a balance that can be easily dealt with.
For example: when there is fear in the Israeli society of Iranian threats, the elimination of this threat is not though engaging in the conflict to remove the fear;  it is enough to reassure the society that it is possible to deal with this threat through the existence of a deterrent and that there is enough protection form it .
Fear is a very basic and important feeling in our lives; it serves for our protection too. Annihilation of fear in individuals when they cross a street, for example, could result in car accidents.
Why is Fear Considered a Psychological Barrier for Conflict Resolution?
The exaggerated descriptions of events that happen in the society- whether historical or present- create fear, even if the threat is not real.
When fear takes over the societies which are in conflict with one another, it stops them from taking any steps forward towards conflict resolution. For example: when fear takes over a society, it prevents it from taking risks; On the other hand, risks are considered a necessity in conflict resolution. Therefore, when this society is approached, it does not cooperate.
In addition, a society can reach fear because of marginalization; it becomes unready to listen to the other side, or explore the possibility of solving the conflict and understanding the consequences.
How Can the Fear Barrier be Addressed in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict?
As mentioned before, the threat must be decreased. However, in the Israeli case, due to historical hostilities and the holocaust, the Israeli community cannot be convinced of a complete elimination of threats. Threats can be addressed by assurance and conviction of an inner power, such as a military force or social strength which is able to deal with these types of threats. As for the Palestinian community, the threat must be reduced by giving them safety, and convincing them that the Israeli Armed Forces is there to protect its people, and not to threaten them. When the problem of fear is solved, the concerned parties will understand one another, and will be able to understand the conflict resolution proposals.
A different method is to exploit fear positively in conflict resolutions; that could be done by convincing the concerned parties that a solution under the current situation would be much better than stalling and waiting for a future solution.
For example, convincing the Israeli community that the rejection of a Palestinian state in the current situation could lead to the emergence of a future one-state solution, which is frightening for some.
Finally, fear must be exploited in a manner which is appropriate with the ideas of the concerned society, in order to lead to a conflict resolution.
[1] Halperin, Eran. Emotion, Emotion Regulation, and Conflict Resolution. Interdisciplinary Center. Herzliya, Israel, 2012. 
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1 by Adi Cohen
in relation to the example given about Iran, I believe that the people trust the army's ability to solve the problem, yet still fear for their lives and the lives of their children. Fear is not entirely eliminated by consoling the ability to face it, even if the army can face it there will still be damages and casualties.
2 by Elinor S
It seems to me fear is a very primal reaction, which makes it difficult to handle.
3 by Ehud
In the middle east environment it will be very difficult to decrease threats and thus intimidate fear. all sides react and understand power which means that if the IDF would to release its grip just a little bit, the Palestinians would interpret it as weakness and attack the Israelis. I don't see a scenario in which Israel relinquishes its control by choice...
4 by Assaf
How can you have on the one side - "assurance and conviction (to the Israeli public) of an inner power, a military force or social strength which is able to deal with threats". And on the other side convincing the Palestinian community "that the Israeli Armed Forces is there to protect its people, and not to threaten them". It's contradictory isn't it?