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The Gaza Conflict Conundrum
The appeal to leaders in Israel and Gaza in the Times letters on 29 July was a worthy counsel of perfection. The building of mutual understanding seems indeed an ‘obvious solution’. But the psychological blockages that prevent parties in conflict from reaching any level of objectivity need to be appreciated by anyone seeking to mediate. The problem is embedded in our psyche. Disputants have four primordial needs: vindication – the need to be proved right; revenge – ‘an eye for an eye’, the need for the other to feel the same pain; humiliation – the need for the enemy to be shamed and humbled; and compensation – the need to recover perceived losses. Unless these needs are properly addressed, settlement is unlikely to be achieved. The mediator may also be assisted by the wisdom of Sun Tzu, the 4th century BC Chinese military strategist, who advocated that ‘a wise conqueror is one who builds a golden bridge upon which his defeated enemy can retreat’. Each side to this conflict desperately needs that golden bridge for a dignified exit route.
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