In a larger sense, the problem with the peace negotiations has never begun at the bargaining table. The Israeli disadvantage always began long beforehand. Even before sitting down together, Israel was put on the defensive.Israel has difficulty confronting its self-image. Hard as it is to conceive, Israel has difficulty coming to terms with its identity as a Jewish state. For that reason, there is so much rhetoric against the orthodox and the observant. Because of this difficulty, Israel has never come out and said: “This is Jewish land, given to us by Gd, and necessary for our own security.” Instead, it offers all sorts of arguments to try to justify its possession of the land according to “universal values.”But this does not work. The international community is solidly behind the Arabs, and even in the US, support for Israel has waned.Why? Because Israel’s self-image is confused, the external image it projects comes out distorted. Since the real truth is not being said, what is being said is being disregarded or misinterpreted.Consider: Israel spends prodigious funds and effort for the welfare of its Arabs. Indeed, the standard of living of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria – before the Intifada – was far superior to that of the average person in most Arab countries. And yet Israel is portrayed throughout the world as a cruel, despotic, and oppressive regime. She bends over backwards to prove herself just and righteous in the eyes of the other nations, and yet continually incurs their censure.At times, this situation borders on the ridiculous. To cite a case in point: In the midst of the Lebanon War, Lebanese Christians murdered hundreds of Palestinians at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla. No Israelis were actually involved in the killings. Instead, this was a case of one Arab taking revenge against another, a time-honored tradition in the Arab world. To prevent these killings from taking place, Israeli soldiers would have had to risk their own lives.How did Israel react to the killings? She volunteered to take the blame. “Since the Israeli soldiers did not stop the Christians, they are responsible for the deaths,” so certain quarters of Israeli society argued. And so loud was their protest that a Commission of Inquiry was established, which made recommendations resulting in a shuffling of the Israeli Cabinet and Army High Command.How was this heard throughout the world? – That Israel admitted causing the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians. Now, it is true that innocent people did not have to die. But in the world’s eyes, the people who actually caused the murder were not condemned whereas the Israelis were.There is a need for Israel to put first things first, to clarify to herself what her priorities are and to go out and put those priorities into practice. This will raise her stature in the community of nations.Why do the other nations condemn Israel so frequently? – Because Israel is so concerned with what they say, because the conception of Israel in the world outside and not the country’s own priorities determines Israeli policy. And so when you can meddle, thinks the world at large, why not meddle?There are many nations – including several of the Arab countries so vehement in their criticism of Israel – which flagrantly violate human rights and yet they are rarely, if ever, called to account for this by the world community. The reason: These countries simply will not listen.Israel must also learn to show strength. And in her instance, the strength can come, not from hollow bravado, but from genuine principles, foremost among them being the need to protect the lives of her citizens. And when this course of action is applied resolutely, she will win respect in the world at large.