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Only Shrinks Can Explain Israel’s Behavior

by GIDEON LEVY

Our wild world of crime has recently been sent for observation. From the bodyguard of the IDF Chief of Staff to the killers of their own children – all have been sent for observation. The time has come, as is the custom around here, to send the country for observation, too. Maybe with ongoing treatment from specialists, the diagnosis that will save us can be made.

There are numerous reasons for the observation. A long series of acts that have no rational explanation, or really any explanation whatsoever, raise the following suspicions: a loss of touch with reality; temporary or permanent insanity, paranoia, schizophrenia and megalomania; memory loss and loss of judgment. All of this must be examined, under careful observation.

The psychiatric specialists might be so kind as to try to explain how a country with leaders committed to a two-state solution continues to direct huge budgets toward building more settlements in territories it intends to vacate in the future. What explanation could there be, if not from the psychiatric realm, for a 10-month halt to residential construction in the settlements, to be immediately followed by more construction? How can a country be so tightfisted when it comes to healthcare spending on its citizens, whose poor are getting poorer – and yet when a portion of the roads in the West Bank are already deemed as dangerous, they build more and more roads there leading from nowhere to nowhere?
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They should explain how the state prosecutor can announce his intention to expropriate more privately-owned Palestinian land at the settlement of Ofra – the “largest illegal settlement in the territories” (in the words of the defense minister’s adviser on settlement issues) – when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his address at Bar-Ilan University last year, explicitly committed not to do so, and President Shimon Peres did more of the same in a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

They should explain what lies behind the decision to examine annexing Highway 443, which runs through the West Bank, as Israeli territory – as a way of defeating the recent High Court of Justice ruling opening it to Palestinian motorists. How can a country that preaches the rule of law dare outfox the High Court through “bypass” laws? And how have an insignificant minority – the settlers – sown fear and managed to extort the country for so many years?

Psychiatric specialists should make clear how a country that’s been dealt a report as potentially disastrous for it as the Goldstone report can so adamantly and stubbornly refuse to convene the commission of inquiry the report provides as an escape clause. How can a nation that has so desperately fought for its international image and standing, and which is so dependent on the world’s benevolence, appoint such a thuggish and violent figure as Avigdor Lieberman as its No. 1 diplomat? Half the world is closed to the foreign minister and we suffer the consequences.

Why didn’t Israel consider presenting, even through some illusion, a nicer face to the world than Lieberman’s threatening visage? Why doesn’t a country so ostracized by so much of the world not ask itself, even for a moment, what part it played in shaping that position of isolation, from which it simply attacks and points fingers at its critics? How can a society which has already existed with a cruel occupation in its backyard for two generations refuse to deal with it, continue feeling so good about itself and evade any kind of self-examination or even an inkling of moral equivocation?

What kind of explanation can be given for the fact that a nation with a clear secular majority has no system for civil marriage, no buses or trains operating on Shabbat? How in such a country are wealthy municipal governments required to transfer funds to religious councils, of all places, rather than other needs? How can a country that has to deal with a domestic Arab minority which has maintained surprising loyalty to the country for more than 60 years do everything to put it down, humiliate and exclude it, treat it unfairly and engender a sense of frustration and hatred within it?

Can it be rationally explained how a country, to which all of the Arab nations have presented a historic peace proposal, refuses to even discuss this? It is a country that the president of Syria (whose major ally, Iran, is threatening Israel) is begging to come to a peace agreement with, yet it remains insistent in its refusal. Only psychiatric experts could possibly explain how the continued occupation of the Golan Heights and the missed opportunities for peace relate to security or logic. At the same time, they should try to explain the connection between the sanctity of historic sites and sovereignty over them. And above all, they should clarify how such a smart and talented society participates in this march of folly without anyone objecting.

True, it’s a difficult case to figure out – all the more reason to recommend the country be sent for observation.

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