Earlier this week I presented a paper at the Annual Association for Israel Studies conference at UCLA. The panel was entitled, Emotional and Philosophical Motivations in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and its Resolution. My paper, in turn, was “Giving Without Receiving? Justifying Unilateral Territorial Withdrawal in Israeli Politics.” If you are interested in the paper or the presentation materials, please let me know. Check out an abstract after the jump.
Giving without Receiving?
Justifying Unilateral Territorial Withdrawal in Israeli Politics
This paper examines a critical counterintuitive behavior in Israeli strategic politics: unilateral territorial withdrawal. Security studies scholarship traditionally assumes that when faced with mounting security dilemmas, states will harden their bargaining positions and intensify strategic claims to contested territory. Yet over the last decade, Israel has undertaken unilateral withdrawals from southern Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and isolated settlements in the West Bank with considerable popular support, even as these moves have empowered Hezbollah and Hamas at the expense of their more moderate rivals. I contend that this is the product of concerted efforts by withdrawal proponents to reframe the debate, justifying unilateral retrenchment as a preemptive consolidation of state borders rather than a perilous retreat. The success of this rhetorical strategy depended less upon discrediting opponents and publicizing the prospective long-term benefits of withdrawal, than generating considerable public knowledge regarding the immediate costs of continued occupation. Popular concern over the lack of reciprocity inherent in unilateral concessions was then overshadowed by expectations of endogenous gains presumably generated by preemptive action.