“Amazing!! You must do it in Hebrew and Arabic!!!  It will change the condition in all the Middle East.”

This is one of my favorite comments written on my blog.  It’s from Yair, someone in Israel who wrote it after using our free belief-elimination process.  Yair obviously saw how the principles of the Lefkoe Belief Process could be useful in resolving the Middle East (or any other) conflict.

For years I’ve wanted the opportunity to help in that situation by using a variation of the Lefkoe Belief Process.

Here’s what I’d do.

First, I would get representatives from all the different factions on each side to a big table, with each group facing the other across the table.

Second, I’d ask , what do you do to protect yourselves?  How do you deal with the other side? (If you identify closely with either side in the conflict, imagine yourself sitting at the table and answer these questions for yourself.)

Israel might talk about the checkpoints and roadblocks, the invasions of Palestinian areas, and the fence. Palestinians might describe their acts of violence and their attempts to gain international support for their position.  We’d soon discover that what each side does is precisely what the other side uses to justify its behavior.

Third, I’d ask, what do you believe that has you act the way you do?

Representatives from Israel might reply that the fence and checkpoints are the only way to keep suicide bombers out of areas where Israelis congregate.  The invasions are the only way to stop the rocket fire, which comes from the invaded areas.  We have the right to settle anyplace in Israel, even in areas that are predominantly Palestinian.

Palestinians might explain that violence is the only avenue open to try to get Israel to recognize their basic human rights and give them back their homeland, which was taken from them by force and by illegal and immoral international agreements.  No matter where we live today we have the right to return to our former homes in Israel.

Fourth, I’d ask, what happened to you that led you to hold the beliefs you hold?

Israelis might reply with a history lesson: Centuries of anti-semitism, the Holocaust, the struggle to create a homeland of their own, trying to survive as a small nation when others have sworn to push them back into the sea, constant shelling from Palestinian areas (and other countries), and the ever-present threat of suicide bombers.  Jewish people have always lived on this land and King David made the city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel 3,000 years ago.  Even 150 years ago there were more Jews living in Jerusalem than Muslims.

Palestinians might reply with their own history lesson: We were living here peaceably when Israel and international agreements (we were not a party to) forcibly drove us from our homeland, Israel has kept us from returning and denies those of us living in Israel basic rights as human beings.  Jerusalem contains some of Islam’s holiest cities.  They probably would add: The Jews used violence against the British when they thought it was the only way to get them to give up control over what is now the State of Israel, and it worked.

Fifth, I’d point out to both sides, that given their respective histories—what has happened to them as a people—their beliefs make perfect sense.  Most people with similar histories would have similar beliefs. And given their beliefs most other people would act the way that they act.

In other words, I would totally validate each side, making it clear that their experience as a people led to their beliefs, which now determine their behavior.  In other words, given their experience, their behavior actually makes sense.

And then I would ask the sixth and final question, What if you were born to the parents of the people sitting on the other side of the table and were brought up as they had been brought up?  Take a few minutes and make that fully real.  Imagine that that really happened. … Which side of the table would you be sitting on now?  Which side would be “right”?

Obviously, the current behavior, beliefs, and histories (source of the beliefs) are much more complicated than I’ve presented here.  But I have presented the essence of what each side would answer and showed how the Process would work no matter how complicated the answers may be.

This Is Not Merely Taking The Other Point Of View

This approach is very different than merely suggesting to someone,  “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”  Given our beliefs that make us think and feel we are “right,” it is almost impossible to emotionally experience what the “other person” is feeling. But if you actually make each of the above steps real to yourself, you will have the profound experience that your beliefs and behavior are no longer “right,” but only a function of your earlier experience.

I’m actually not sure what would happen after Israelis and Palestinians completed all six steps, but it would be impossible for them to continue to be righteous about their respective positions when they’ve just had to acknowledge that they would be arguing the opposite point of view if they had been born to different parents. Because if an accident of birth would have resulted in them having opposite positions, then they can’t argue that their current positions are “right.”

Solutions Do Exist

I have no idea how to work out the many real disagreements between them, but many experts have developed possible solutions.  As Professor Robert Mnookin, chair of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation said in a Harvard Law Bulletin article: “Unlike other ethnic conflicts where solutions are difficult to imagine, as in the Balkans, an arrangement that might greatly reduce the tensions and violence between Israelis and Palestinians isn’t hard to identify. The mystery is why that can’t be achieved.” (Emphasis added.)

A partial explanation for the “mystery” is that each side thinks it is “right” and the other side is “wrong,” so the other side should make most of the compromises.  (“Why should I give away something to which I am entitled to people who are not entitled to it and who are killing my people?”) When it becomes clear that neither side is right or wrong—that everyone is only acting in accordance with beliefs derived from an accident of birth—compromise might be a lot easier to achieve.

A further explanation for the “mystery” is the profound disagreements between the various factions on each side.  Therefore I suggest that the six-step process be used first with a three-or four-sided table and representatives from the Israeli factions and then again with the Palestinian factions, before the meeting between the two major parties to the conflict. Because each faction has somewhat different histories, each has different beliefs, leading to different behavior.  Each needs to discover that its point of view is not “the truth” before there can ever be a unified Israeli and Palestinian position.

The Process Will Work With All Conflicts

By the way, you might have realized as I described the steps I would take with the two sides of the Middle East conflict that this approach would be just as useful in labor-management disputes.  In fact, couldn’t you use it with minor modifications with your spouse or significant other to resolve interpersonal conflicts?

The Process I’ve described is not merely a theoretical model; it is a modified version of the Lefkoe Belief Process that we’ve used with over 31,000 people to help them totally and permanently eliminate the beliefs that determine what they do and feel. It is so consistently effective that we actually guarantee that people will get rid of their anxiety, their fears, their approval seeking, their procrastination, etc. when they eliminate the beliefs that cause those problems, such as I’m not good enough, I’m not important, and I’m powerless. So we have considerable evidence that the basic process is extremely powerful and has produced spectacular results for 24 years, which have been verified in a study published on a peer-reviewed psychological journal.

Please pass this on to anyone you think might be interested in this six-step process  for resolving disputes, especially anyone who is actively working on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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