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Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

To Kill Hope? In Search of a Reliable Strategy to Fight Terrorism

Filed under: Israeli Security, Terrorism
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review
Volume 29, Numbers 1–2

Israeli history offers no reasonable basis to expect that terrorists will be appeased by concessions of any kind, whether the transfer of funds or the ceding of territory to terrorist control. Neither statistics nor the studies of particular cases support such a hypothesis.

The immediate and most obvious criterion of success for belligerents is the control of new territory and its population, which allows terrorists freedom of movement, with opportunities to try new terrorist technologies and take the initiative. Loss of land and population, humiliating defeat, or ostentatious display of triumph by the enemy, in contrast, discourages terrorist leaders and even suicide bombers. In the case of defeat, the perpetrators lose principal components of the posthumous reward: glorification and income for their families.

Factual instances and statistical data analysis provide evidence for the hypothesis that terrorism is best suppressed by force.


The prevailing wisdom among academic experts is that terrorism is a reaction to continuous oppression, denial of civil rights, and hopelessness. In the case of Israel, the supposedly draconian measures employed by the Israeli military and state special services, alongside the intransigence of the political leadership, provide additional impetus. Or such, at least, was presumed during the period preceding the Oslo process.

A study of the history of counterterrorism, beginning in Mandatory Palestine, suggests a much more complex picture; the various strategies employed allow a comparison and analysis of their efficacy.

In this article we will consider the following hypotheses:

  1. Terrorism is motivated by poverty; considered in its most dangerous forms, it is irrational.
  2. A strategy of concessions, appeasement, and cooperation with the process of economic development is the only, or best, available antiterrorist strategy in the long term.

In this article we use the following essential definitions:

“Terrorists” refers to groups not only resorting to terrorism, but having the option (as is the case in Israel and other countries of the West) to achieve their goals in a legal manner. In Israel minorities enjoy political and civil rights. Their life, liberty, dignity, and property are guaranteed and protected in a reliable manner.

We also divide terrorists into the following categories.

Terrorists of the first type are those who try to achieve their goals by attacking military and political leaders, albeit without avoiding concomitant civilian victims (e.g., the Irish Republican Army, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party).

Terrorists of the second type, which will be discussed extensively in this study, maximize the number of victims and deliberately target civilians. Walzer (1977, 197) asserted of terrorism of this general kind: “Its purpose is to destroy the morale of a nation [through] the random murder of innocent people.” Here we will stress that the victims are “innocent people,” without dwelling on the randomness of the killings. It is evident that killing one civilian is, on average, less “costly” than killing one well-trained soldier, and attracts comparable media coverage. This second type of terrorism is obviously the most lethal and dangerous.

We do not refer to databases of “terrorism incidents,” which could distort our study in a crucial way.1 Databases of this kind may equate a minor incident with a vicious murder. Our quantitative study discusses only data pertaining to fatalities, due to both the relatively high reliability of these databases and their appropriateness and compatibility with our target questions in terms of the time periods under consideration.

Literature Review

How Rational Are the Terrorists?

We believe that any debate about whether terrorism is rational obfuscates the very real question about what motivates terrorists.2 It is difficult to challenge the rationality of the organizers of terrorist attacks, and even more difficult to challenge the rationality of the sponsors of terrorism.

Moreover, as many studies have noted, assumptions along these lines contradict established fact. Consider, for example, the competition among terrorist groups to claim responsibility for attacks, even when the costs of the attacks were increasing. (See the supplementary materials for details, including vivid testimony to the rationality of terrorist organizers. Additional evidence can be adduced from a study of the sources about the recruitment of women to serve as “live bombs”; see Schweitzer 2006.)

Even the conduct of most suicide bombers, if the subject is studied in good faith, does not appear to be a priori irrational. For individuals finding themselves, or suddenly ending up, at the very bottom of the social ladder or held in contempt by their families, participation in a suicidal terrorist attack offers a chance to restore, or dramatically improve, their status as they regain or achieve respect and recognition. There are also material advantages afforded to the family by the party sponsoring terrorism (as in the case of the “Palestinian” Authority).

Terrorists who come from stable families, who are educated and gainfully employed, have much higher expectations, requiring greater prestige. A terrorist’s belief in posthumous rewards is really no less rational than a belief that there is no reward or punishment after death, as propounded by many scholars addressing this issue.

Ferrero (2006) concluded that a “suicide contract” may indeed be rational, given the punishment for reneging on the commitment, along with the genuine possibility of losing one’s life during the “second period” of the proposed two-period model. There is no unambiguous dating of the second period for the individual having “signed the contract”; only the goods during the first period are fully spelled out. True enough, the author concludes—none too comfortingly—that there are no strategies for the long term in the complex game of countering the organizations guiding and instructing suicide terrorist attackers.

Berman and Laitin (2008) note that the organizations that provide their members and the recruiting pool with “care from the cradle to the grave” are also the most effective organizers and suppliers of suicide terrorist attacks. These organizations typically belong to category that includes Hamas (a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; see also Levitt 2006), Hizbullah, and the Taliban. Generally speaking, a similar effect was produced by the totalitarian proto-state structures making up part of the organization of the Tamil Tigers, and is produced today by the leadership of the “Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

All in all, a suicide terrorist’s benefit has two components. The first is that his or her family’s needs will be provided for after his or her death. The second is the solid, grounded hope for the terrorist’s own share in posthumous compensation, both in posthumous glorification and in achieving a niche in the terrorists’ “Valhalla.” Right of entry into this hall of glory is simplified in comparison to the original Valhalla (killing women and children is rewarded; see the example of Hanadi Jaradat3 in the survey in Schweitzer 2006).

Perpetrators of terrorist attacks who remain alive and serve terms in Israeli prisons also receive monthly salaries (financed at the taxpayers’ expense in EU countries and the United States). Considering these points, the model of care provided in exchange for terrorism appears to be thoroughly functional.4

The fallibility of the schemes and models that explain terrorism in terms of hopelessness, an insurmountable commitment to ideals, or other irrational motives is made clear by the instances of women terrorists in Schweitzer (2006).

The Roots of Terrorism: Poverty and Hopelessness?

Frey (2004) promotes the idea that promising other rewards to would-be terrorists could prevent violence. “Positive rewards” could heal the “roots” of terrorism, the term typically referring to the socioeconomic circumstances prevalent in poor countries. Following the same tradition, Burgoon (2006) proposes active social policy such as massive state spending on social programs, various kinds of antipoverty aid, education, and health care.

Krueger and Malečková (2003) were among the first to level criticism at the hypothesis that terrorism is rooted in poverty and ignorance and could be eradicated by an increase in wellbeing and education. The authors relied on classical crime and punishment economics (Ehrlich 1973), concluding that violent offenses, unlike property crimes, cannot be explained by the educational or income levels of the perpetrators. The study roundly disproved the notion that ignorance and poverty provide a nourishing milieu for terrorism.

Abadie (2006) studied the correlation between the World Market Research Center’s Global Terrorism Index (WMRC-GTI), a measure of terrorism risk by country, and a set of socioeconomic indicators: per capita GDP, the Human Development Index, and others. For most of the parameters specified, he found no significant correlation between the indicators and the terrorism risk. A significant correlation appeared only in the absence of other variables, or, at least, when no control variables were included. By contrast, a stable significant correlation was indicated between the lack of political freedoms and terrorism levels, though this is not to suggest a linear correlation. Based on the study’s findings, Abadie concluded that terrorism is primarily a threat to states that are neither totalitarian nor democratic. Thus, countries in the stage of transition are in the risk category.

Proponents of the appeasement (tribute payments) approach to terrorists have so far provided no functional policy advice for altering the motivational factors affecting terrorists of the second type, who have the opportunity to succeed in business, politics, or other fields but prefer to murder as many civilians as possible. It remains unclear just how their choice may be drastically altered by a onetime or regularly reiterated payment. We emphasize that the recipient in question has made a conscious choice in favor of immoral and illegal activism over moral and legal activity. At this point there are also no instances of cases of success in implementing such policies.

The Possibility of Restraining Terrorism by Means of Deterrence

Sandler and Lapan (1988) and Rosendorff and Sandler (2004) propose that a country’s struggle against terrorism can negatively affect other countries, to which the terrorists might transfer their operations. Such a relocation may lead to an “excess” supply of the good of “active antiterrorist fighting,” as more and more countries will be forced to adopt this strategy to deal with the displaced bandits in their territory. It is difficult to say just where or when the authors were actually witness to this effect. They can cite, of course, no instances of countries that were victimized by dead terrorists, the terrorists eliminated by the United States or Israel; live perpetrators are a scarce resource (see the concept of terror-stock in Kaplan et al. 2005) and most of their attempts to kill are prevented (see, e.g., Shabak 2007).

De Mesquita (2008) presents an important problem of suboptimal “provision of counterterror” by the contemporary welfare state as a result of the interaction among politicians, voters, and terrorists. He correctly notes that the modern voter must choose between pure (in this case, security) and mixed (education, medicine, infrastructure, aid of various kinds) public goods. Efforts in the area of defense and, especially, of security (counterterrorist operations) are unseen by voters; information about them is often classified. The upshot is that political leadership has powerful incentives to invest more in non-security-related public goods and to underinvest in security. The problem is compounded by the danger that voters dependent on the state budget are strongly inclined to choose “free stuff” over security if the probability of dying as a terrorist-attack victim is lower than that of being killed in a car crash. Thus, in Spain after the attack on March 11, 2004 (which killed 190 and wounded 1,800), the ruling People’s Party lost the elections held on March 14, 2004, and the socialists of PSOE won. As expected, the socialists reduced investments in defense and security; for instance, the Spanish troops soon left Iraq.6

Trager et al. (2006) uphold the efficacy of terrorism deterrence. The article studies examples from Israel and the Philippines in the early 21st century. The authors note that deterrence is not always brute force and, using the example of the Philippines, promote their idea of limited deterrence, whose primary short-term goal is preventing cooperation between the largest local terrorist organization (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF) and more radical terrorist networks. True enough, the authors concede that absent proof on the battlefield, deterrence cannot work in isolation from credible threat.

Overall, the study by Trager et al. (2006) attempts to show that the use of force, punishments, and other measures to raise the terrorists’ costs of achieving their goals, including both organizational-technical and legal measures, can in fact yield results.

But the authors shift the emphasis to measures unconnected with violence per se, emphasizing the problems and negative impact of violence. They suppose that terrorists, if weakened by the blows delivered by the state but not utterly destroyed, are capable of switching to potentially more dangerous undertakings or are more willing to take part in international terrorist attacks. Hamas, weakened but not destroyed by the blows inflicted on its leaders in 2004, had by 2007 switched to the struggle against Fatah, after quickly forgetting to fulfill its promise “to swing the gates of hell open for Israel.”

Historical Instances

Taming of the Tamil Tigers: A Case of Victory over Terrorism

Sri Lanka became de facto independent (having been formally granted dominion status) in 1948, while universal suffrage had become law at the time of the elections to the colonial legislative council in 1931 (De Silva 1981; Biziouras 2014). Universal suffrage led to an attempt by the Sinhalese, the majority of the population, to monopolize power. The Tamil side reacted with an immediate radicalization of their political representatives (De Silva 1995).

Armed Tamil resistance rapidly degenerated into a terrorist organization, the Tamil Tigers, that surpassed most other contemporary terrorist groups in the numbers they left dead, while their methods of waging war became a model for other ferocious terrorist groups.7 Such tactics included mass delivery of live bombs, great numbers of which were delivered by women; mobilization into armed groups of women and teenagers; and mass murders of civilians, including children, both by explosions and regular executions in rural areas (such as the Kebithigollewa Massacre; note by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense; “Mapping Militant Organizations,” Stanford University).

All later projects to stabilize the situation with international involvement were reduced to attempts to combine incompatibles: on the one hand, the demands put forth by the Tamil terrorists; on the other, the Sinhalese elite’s desire to rule without limitations of any kind.

In 2006 the Sinhalese authorities granted the military the authorization and arms necessary for fighting the terrorists, and assumed the responsibility for the military-political project of destroying the enemy. The feasible and clearly defined goal was achieved within a reasonable period of time, despite the relative strength of the rebels and weakness of the Sri Lankan army. In May 2009 the few remaining regions under the Tigers’ control were taken by the regular army; most important, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tigers’ founder and leader of many years’ standing, was killed.

Resolve sends the enemy (the surviving or potential terrorist leaders and their sponsors) a signal about the uselessness of investing resources in continued violence. Just as in other cases of victory over terrorist organizations (in Kenya, Malaya, Chechnya, and other cases—see Boot 2013; Henkin 2006), establishing absolute control over land is of crucial importance.

Instances from Israeli History8

“National Home” in the Possession of Mapai

During the period of the British Mandate, the leading leftist parties of the future state of Israel, like all leftist parties, maintained antimilitaristic stances. Leftist leaders repeatedly accused their rightist opponents of militarism and even fascism. The leftists’ readiness to reach a compromise on these issues, in contrast to the supporters of Ze’ev Jabotinsky (who were liberals and “Revisionists”), led the British, after Jabotinsky’s supporters had been chased underground, to support the left (primarily the Mapai Party).

Beginning in 1948, having secured a de facto monopoly on power, Israel’s Mapai (later, Labor) Party became strongly prodefense, taking measures against aggression and terrorism that were marked by ferocity and resolve.

Studying the motivation behind such a change lends support to the hypothesis that the era of patriotic-defensive priorities was grounded in the vision of the state as a party-“corporate” asset owned by the left and in need of general defense, including from enemies beyond the country’s borders. Losing the lead in elections destroyed this vision, returning Israel’s left to the classic leftist predicament of opting for social spending when faced with the choice of “guns vs. butter.” The situation is discussed in more detail in (authors) (2014).

The period of the leftist monopoly on power thus coincides with the period of the Israeli leadership’s greatest commitment to tit-for-tat strategies and terrorism deterrence. For example, brutal antiterrorist operations by the Ariel Sharon-led 101 detachment, combined with the 1956 invasion of Gaza as part of the Sinai Campaign, resulted in a 10-year decline in terrorist attacks from Gaza. No indications of a “cycle of violence” were detected (see Figure 1 in the supplementary materials and the dataset).

A “Home” without a Proprietor: The First Intifada

The First Intifada has for decades been used as the reason for a fundamental change that occurred in Israel’s policy toward terrorism. We have studied some of the events of the First Intifada to test the soundness of drastically changing the strategic approach to fighting terrorism; this forms the principal aim of this article.

Any sign of weakness is taken by an aggressive leader as an invitation to further violence. Before the intifada erupted, Arab terrorist organizations had been given a plethora of loud and clear signals about the Israeli leadership’s readiness to retreat and to make concessions.

The scale of the events of 1987-1990 was not great enough to explain the need to rescind the strategy of fighting terrorism in favor of a strategy of appeasement.

Most of the steps taken by the Israeli leadership during the conflict cannot be explained without resort to the struggle for political power, along with the evolution of the leftist elite after it lost power in 1977 (Zatcovetsky et al. 2014).

The sources studied support the hypothesis that the Oslo Accords had no grounding in the First Intifada, even though the intifada is commonly used to legitimize Oslo. It was one and the same process—and one and the same political choice—that led both to the Oslo Accords and to eruptions of terror (Zatcovetsky et al. 2015).

The Oslo Peace Process: New Strategic Approaches

Prior to 1977, giving sober consideration to the prospects of conducting business with terrorists, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin—both of whom would later be associated with a very different approach—approved an attack on Uganda (Operation Entebbe) with the support of opposition leader Menachem Begin. The motives discussed above further cast doubt on the presupposition that the initiators of the Oslo process really expected the accords to solve the problem of security.

As expected by the right, with the onset of the Oslo process terrorism surged, compounded by the deterioration of overall security. However, the abovementioned control of the court system, “legal adviser to the government,” made it possible to block undesirable measures by undesirable leaders,9 all with total and unrestricted international support granted—in the name of peace—to the violation of lawful and democratic principles.

In 1994 Israel transferred lands to the Palestinian Authority (PA), complete with populations, arms, and a tax base regularly dispensed by the Israeli Finance Ministry. Although the responsibility for security was transferred to the PA which had been endowed with the formal status of a police force and dressed in police uniforms, the transferred lands were not—and are not—off limits for invasion in case of need by Israel’s military or security forces.

In 2005 with the disengagement from Gaza an additional area was created, a new launching ground, where, based on compliance with the law, permission for armed intervention is granted at the level of the Israeli cabinet. The procedure for this is considerably more complex than the one required for invading Jordan prior to 1967, when the approval of the defense minister sufficed.

The existence of such a launching ground provided terrorists with unprecedented opportunities for bombarding Jewish cities with rockets of both the homegrown and smuggled kinds, along with preparing tunnels for attack.

Sharon, as prime minister, announced the plan to withdraw in a series of speeches from December 2003 to April 2004. Prior to this announcement, the first experiments with homegrown rockets, which had begun in 2001, amounted to a total of four launches in 2001, 35 in 2002, 155 in 2003, 281 in 2004 (as part of the extremely unconvincing attempt to mount a “response” to the elimination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, successive heads of Hamas), and 179 in 2005. Subsequently, in 2006 alone, 946 rockets fell in the Israeli Negev; against the backdrop of the war for Gaza waged between Fatah and Hamas, 2007 saw the number total fall slightly to 896, while in 2008 the total reached 1,752, with another 428 (out of the total of 578 in 2009) coming prior to the 2009 elections. There was a sharp drop in the number of these rockets following Operation Cast Lead of December 2008-January 2009; it lasted two years. There were a total of 129 launches in 2010 and 375 in 2011.10

Before the disengagement from Gaza, the lion’s share of the rockets fell on the Jewish settlements in Gaza, posing no challenge to the densely populated regions of the Israeli south (to say nothing of Greater Tel Aviv). Beginning in 2007, however, under the aegis of Hamas, the terrorists demonstrated their ability to respond with effectiveness, agility, and practicality to new political opportunities and limitations. Occasionally they scrutinize their adversaries to ascertain the current limits to prospective action.

The defeat that Hamas suffered at Israel’s hands in 2004, along with the loss of leaders and the victory over Fatah, spelled out new limits for the strategy of live bombs.

The use of more advanced, smuggled rockets allowed Hamas to be more directly in control of terrorist attacks. Although there were fewer victims, economic damage continued to increase.

Then again, the principal contributing factor in all the terrorists’ successful operations proved to be Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, conjoined with a persistent refusal to retake abandoned positions or even to simplify the procedure required to invade Gaza if necessary.

Analysis of the Dynamics of Terror Victims

Statistical data about victims of terrorist attacks are based on information from the National Insurance Institute (persons killed by “hostile actions” beginning in 1919), on “cleansing” of the victims of wars, and (in 1947) on numbers of victims of measures taken by the British. We also make use of data about the Jewish population of the state of Israel. One of the versions of the variable to be explained is the number of those killed as a proportion of the population.

The principal alternative possibilities among hypotheses about the source of terrorism in Israel are:

  • Terrorism is caused by a deficit of hope among the Arab population.
  • Terrorism is caused by the well-founded hope of Arab terrorist leaders and activists to destroy the Jewish population (or at least to establish their own dictatorship).

Reliable data on mortality fails to support the first hypothesis and does not reject the second one (see the supplementary materials for details).


Based on a survey of the literature, historical case studies, and available statistics, we have rejected the hypothesis that terrorism results from hopelessness and despair among the poorest and least educated strata of the population. In fact, Israeli experience shows that terrorism is stimulated by the rational hope of terrorist leaders to achieve their objectives within a reasonably short period of time.

Accelerated economic development provides no relevant alternative to terrorism. Rule by the organizers or the sponsors of terrorism precludes guarantees of individual rights or private property. That is, terrorists’ rule, or rule of force and by force, makes it impossible to achieve long-term economic growth (Yanovskiy and Shulgin 2013). At the same time, terrorist leaders use funds for their own personal enrichment, not for purchasing the instruments of terrorism. In this sense, the corruption of the Arab autonomy in Judea and Samaria is undeniably a positive development.

Controlling territory increases opportunities for terrorist leaders, affording them the initiative. Moreover, such control serves as the most obvious and vivid indicator of their power.

Suppressing terrorism by means of armed force and maintaining rigid control over land seven days a week and 24 hours per day (Boot 2013) must go hand in hand with the entrenchment of institutions that guarantee individual freedoms and property rights, modeled after the example of British India after the Sepoy Rebellion had been quashed.

From the very beginning of recorded human history,people have always submitted to the most powerful leader (Olson’s “bandit”). Therefore, a civilized country could defeat terrorists, conquer their territory, and exploit the millennia-old practice of submitting. In the long term, however, there is an opportunity to change simple, traditional obedience to the conqueror to obedience to the law, which guarantees rights and freedoms.

Taking this path requires patience and time, possibly generations, but it offers the only reasonable hope for a durable solution.


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  2. Berman, Eli and David D. Laitin. Religion, Terrorism and Public Goods: Testing the Club Model. Journal of Public Economics 92 (2008): 1942-67.
  3. Biziouras, Nikolaos. The Political Economy of Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka: Economic Liberalization, Mobilizational Resources, and Ethnic Collective Action, Contemporary South Asia Series (Routledge, 2014).
  4. Boot, Max. Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (Liveright, 2013).
  5. British Taxpayers’ Alliance. Funding Hate Education (2008).
  6. Burgoon, Brian. On Welfare and Terror: Social Welfare Policies and Political-Economics Roots of Terrorism. Journal of Conflict Resolution 50 (April 2006): 176-203.
  7. de Mesquita, Ethan Bueno. Politics and the Suboptimal Provision of Counterterror. International Organization 61 (Winter 2007): 9-36.
  8. De Silva, K. M. Universal Franchise, 1931-1981: The Sri Lankan Experience. Department of Information, Ministry of State, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (Colombo, 1981).
  9. De Silva, K. M. History of Sri Lanka (Penguin, 1995).
  10. Ehrlich, I. (1973). Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation. Journal of Political Economy 81 (1973): 521-65.
  11. Enders, Walter and Gary A. Hoover. The Nonlinear Relationship between Terrorism and Poverty. American Economic Review 102, 3, Papers and Proceedings of the One-Hundred-Twenty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (May 2012): 267-72.
  12. Ferrero, Mario. Martyrdom Contracts. Journal of Conflict Resolution 50, 6 (December 2006): 855-77.
  13. Frey, Bruno S. Edward. Dealing with Terrorism: Stick or Carrot? (Elgar, 2004).
  14. Henkin, Yagil. How Great Nations Can Win Small Wars. Azure, Spring 5766 (2006), 39-81.
  15. Hirshleifer, J. The Dark Side of the Force: Economic Foundations of Conflict Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2001).
  16. Jaeger, David A. and M. Daniele Paserman. The Cycle of Violence? An Empirical Analysis of Fatalities in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. American Economic Review 98, 4 (2008): 1591–1604.
  17. Kaplan, Edward H., Mintz, Alex, Mishal, S. and C. Samban. What Happened to Suicide Bombings in Israel? Insights from a Terror Stock Model. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 28 (2005): 225–35.
  18. Krueger, Allan B. and Jitka Malečkova. Education, Poverty and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection? Journal of Economic Perspectives 17, 4 (Fall 2003): 119–44.
  19. Lapan, Harvey E. and Todd Sandler. To Bargain or Not to Bargain: That Is the Question. American Economic Review 78, 2 (1988): 16-21.
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* * *


1 See Shabak (2007), 4-5: 30,595 terrorist attacks recorded since 2000; 1,065 Israelis killed, including 525 killed in 155 suicide attacks.

2 At least, their actions are fairly well reasoned in a rational fashion (they are rational without “full rationality” assumptions in the sense of Simon 1995).

3 She is glorified by terrorists as the “Bride of Haifa.” On October 4, 2003, she killed 20 innocent civilians including 5 women, 1 senior, and 4 children (10, 9, 4 and 1 year old) in Maxim, a crowded restaurant. See details at the National Insurance Institute site:

4 On the jailed terrorists’ salaries, see;;; On education, see British Taxpayers’ Alliance 2008; Palestinian Media Watch 2015.

5 The people as a whole could join the fight only in patriotic books, as the brave Polish underground fighters of the 1980s teach us (Bielecki, Kelus, and Sikorska 1983).


7 See, e.g.,

8 For the case of the prestatehood period during the British Mandate, see the supplementary materials.

9 See the testimony of the justice minister in Ehud Olmert’s leftist cabinet during 2006-2008, in


11 Most cases of the rule of law, as opposed to the routine rule of force, have to do with the 17th through 20th centuries and encompass some dozens of European countries and Western offshoots.

Supplementary Materials


  • Despair (poverty, lack of political rights) does not cause political violence and specifically terror.
  • Events causing hope to prevail encourage terrorism; failures and defeats of terrorists discourage it.
  • Violently suppressing and deterring terrorism is a feasible option.
  • Military and security personnel need appropriate legal protection.
  • Lasting institutional solutions of the problem of political violence take time—generations.

Hope event 1 (strategic-significance hope event) definition: Exogenous for leaders of terrorist events, giving them hope and instruments to prevent the creation of the Jewish state (during the Mandate, before the establishment of Israel) or hope and means (instruments) to destroy the Jewish state after it had been established.

Hope event 2 (tactical-significance hope event) definition: Exogenous or endogenous for leaders of terrorist events, which undoubtedly strengthened their positions, proving their successes. For the Mandate period the set of events includes most of the indications of the British government’s intention not to establish the Jewish state. For the Israel-independence period the set includes electoral victories for coalitions committed to further advancement of the “Oslo process.”

List 1. Strategic-significance “hope events” (to establish terrorists’ leaders control in the Land of Israel)

August 1919 – Jewish Legion disbanded

The Jewish Legion was disbanded that year, causing hope that the British were not so committed to establishing the Jewish home in the Land of Israel (Ze’ev Jabotinsky was forcibly demobilized). The event weakened the capacity to protect the Jewish population from violence and terror and sent a message to leaders of violent mobs: British rule is at least not pro-Jewish. The instrument, the way to realize the hope (the goal), was a wave of pogroms.

December 1928 – High Commissioner rotation: Field Marshal H. Plumer left and John Chancellor resumed the office

John Chancellor resumed the office on December 6; this modern, socially “concerned” bureaucrat quickly assessed that Jews were not in need of his care; on the contrary, Arabs were the optimal subject of governmental care.1 Apparently this bureaucratic choice, promising more of a budget and more discretion in spending, determined the new (the first non-Jewish) ruler’s position. This choice and power rotation inflamed hopes of Arab leaders to prevent Jews from establishing the Jewish state.

The appointment and initial contacts proved that the British government had discarded the Balfour Declaration’s and even the Palestine Mandate’s obligations to establish a “Jewish National Home” in the Land of Israel, as the new ruler sided with the Arabs even to the point of ignoring pogroms. Thus, again, the instrument to realize hope turned out to be pogroms, impelling Jews to flee the disputed land.

Evyatar Friesel (1993), “Through a Peculiar Lens: Zionism and Palestine in British Diaries, 1927-31,” Middle Eastern Studies 29: 419–44; Report by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Trans-Jordan for the year 1928. See more at:

January 4, 1935 – Opening of the Mosul-Haifa oil pipeline

The pipeline from Iraq to Haifa (heavily populated by Arabs) empowered Arab leaders both economically and politically, giving hope the British government would prefer economic and political cooperation with the Arabs over formal judicial obligations to the Jewish community. The instrument here: economic and political interests of the British government to secure an oil supply.

1947-1948 – Heavy losses for the Jewish community during the first year of armed hostilities; huge superiority of five Arab countries gave the Arabs hope to eradicate the Jewish community by force

Arab coalition forces invade in May 1948 (Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon plus troops from Saudi Arabia and from Yemen). Huge superiority of five Arab countries in arms and troop strength was clear and perceived as an obvious fact. The instrument for realizing hope here appeared to be the coalition of five armies. The victory of the coalition was perceived as imminent at that time. Even before the regular armies’ invasion, Jewish militia forces failed to suppress local Arab gangs, which attacked communications and, effectively, succeeded to cut off Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.; Uri Milstein, History of the War of Independence (University Press of America, 1996)

1967 and 1973 – New, great hope to eradicate Israel

Arab leaders anticipated a decisive victory as a result of overwhelming military superiority and, in the latter case, because of a surprise attack and the Israeli government’s reluctance to sanction a preemptive attack or even to order a mobilization of reservists. The instrument for realizing hope was the same as in 1948.

Abraham Rabinovich, The Yom Kippur War (Schocken, 2004), 89

1993 – Oslo Accords

Mahmoud Abbas, Through Secret Channels: The Road to Oslo: Senior PLO Leader Abu Mazen’s Revealing Story of the Negotiations with Israel (Garnet, 1997)

2000 – Negotiations and Ehud Barak’s initial proposals;; Official Israeli (from the “pro-peace” Ministry for Foreign Affairs) version and collection of references: “Israel-Palestinian Negotiations December 2000-January 2001”; typical Arafat apology: “wrong timing,” lack of gestures and commitments, etc.:

List 2. Tactical-significance “hope events” and “discouraging events”3

June 1922 – Churchill White Paper—reasons to revise the obligations and responsibilities of the UK government under the Balfour Declaration (hope event)
It appeared as just one more encouraging message in a series of similar events.

Churchill White Paper
June 1922 – Palestine Mandate approved (including the establishment of the Jewish national home as a conditionality) (discouraging event)
In the aftermath of the Balfour Declaration, the Great Powers’ intention to establish the Jewish national home (JNH) was not big news.

Palestine Mandate (art. 4—Jewish national home designated; Jewish Agency officially recognized)
October 1930 – Passfield White Paper (hope event)
Advocacy of major and unilateral revision of the British Mandate conditions.

Passfield White Paper
February 1931 – Passfield White Paper disavowed by the British government (discouraging event)
Passfield White Paper reversed
July 1937 – Peel Commission Report (hope event, as the proposals were taken by the Arab side as an initial offer to launch further bargaining)
The report proposed a further division (partition plan) of the Jewish national home between Jews and Arabs; the lion’s share of the land was offered to the Arab side. The “economic absorption capacity” approach was acknowledged to be wrong and mistaken.

May 1939 – White Paper of 1939; with the partition plan discarded, an attempt to uphold the Mandate conditions but with severe restrictions (hope event)

A British attempt to appease Arab leaders angered by the partition plan. New proposals to prevent Jews from arriving in the Land of Israel (Palestine). New references to the failed and discredited “economic absorption capacity” theory. The White Paper was decisively rejected by all Jewish parties and organizations.

February 1949 – Defeated Egypt forces cease to fight (discouraging event)

The coalition of Arab armies was defeated (in Israel’s War of Independence, or so-called Nakba—disaster).
July 1949 – Syria ends hostilities (discouraging event)
November 1956 – Sinai Campaign waged by the IDF (discouraging event)

Egyptian forces and terrorist militia defeated in Sinai and Gaza

December 1966 – Martial law is lifted (hope event)
June 1967 – Six-Day War, Arabs defeated (discouraging event); Arabs permitted to administer Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and Tomb of the Patriarchs—hope event)

See comments on the issue in the section on “The Significance of Symbols or ‘What We Need This Vatican For’” in the paper:;

July 1976 – Operation Entebbe (discouraging event )
Eastern bloc and Ugandan army suffered a humiliating defeat in their terror war against West.

May 1977 – First historical victory of conservative Likud Party, first nonsocialist government in Israel (discouraging event)
As a rule, the Etzel-Herut-Likud stance on the terror issue, on defense, and on the Judea, Samaria, and Gaza territories liberated in 1967 was harder than the leftist parties’ position.
March 1978 – Litani Operation in Southern Lebanon (discouraging event)

An operation launched in retaliation for the March 11 bus hijacking near Tel Aviv in which 35 people, including 8 small children (aged 0-9) were murdered and 71 others were injured. About 300 terrorists were killed and all terrorist infrastructure south of the Litani River obliterated.

September 1978 – Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt with concession of Sinai (hope event)
The accords, signed under the Carter administration’s heavy pressure, entailed ceding real land in exchange for a promise of peace.

July 1980 – East Jerusalem annexation (discouraging event)
With the passing of the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel

June 1981 – Raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor (discouraging event)
On June 7 in Operation Opera.

December 1981 – Golan Heights annexation (discouraging event)
With the passing of the Golan Heights Law.
April 1982 – Population of Jewish town of Yamit (in the Sinai Peninsula) evacuated (hope event)
The Jewish population’s evacuation was carried out in the framework of implementing the Camp David treaty.

August 1982 – PLO forces defeated in Lebanon (discouraging event)
May 1985 – Mass release of terrorists (Jibril deal) (hope event)
Mass terrorist release instead of capturing bargaining chips—i.e., taking prisoners intentionally for the purpose of an exchange as in the well-known Operation Argaz 3 case.4

April 1987 – Peres-Hussein negotiations (hope event)
Negotiations between Peres and Jordan’s King Hussein during their “agreement” of April 11, 1987, in London.5
June 1992 – Victory of the left parties’ coalition in the 1992 elections (hope event)
July 1992 – Repeal of prohibition and sanctions for contacts with terrorists (hope event)
January 1993 – Leftist government officials’ secret contacts with Arafat’s representatives
Mahmoud Abbas, Through Secret Channels: The Road to Oslo: Senior PLO Leader Abu Mazen’s Revealing Story of the Negotiations with Israel (Garnet, 1997)
September 1993 – Signing of Oslo Accords (strategic hope event; see List 1 above)
May 1994 – Arafat’s triumphant arrival in Gaza (hope event)
July 1994 – Gaza-Jericho Agreement; first territory ceded to terrorist rule (hope event)
September 1995 – Oslo II Agreement with terrorists signed in the U.S. (hope event)
January 1997 – IDF and police forces retreat from Hebron
October 1998 – Wye River Memorandum of October 23, whereby the Likud government gave legitimacy to the Oslo process and resumed its implementation without revision (hope event)

Systematic violation of terms by terrorists (to cease all terrorist activities as well as terrorism and violence incitement) had given the newly elected government enough reasons and pretexts to cancel the agreements (see, e.g., Preamble, articles XV and XXII, of the September 22, 1995, Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement).

May 2000 – IDF unilateral retreat from Lebanon (hope event)
July 2000 – Barak-Arafat negotiations (strategic hope event; see List 1 above)
January 2001 – Barak-Arafat negotiations in Taba (strategic hope event; see List 1 above)
A reasonable hope to weaken Israel strategically escalated Arafat’s demands, followed by a wave of terror (the Second Intifada).
February 2001 – Sharon’s landslide victory over Barak in direct prime-ministerial elections (discouraging event)
April 2001 – Sharon’s son Omri meets with Arafat; IDF returns Gaza (hope event and discouraging event, respectively)
March 2002 – Operation Defensive Shield (discouraging event)

Use of heavy weaponry was severely restricted. Nevertheless, terrorist gangs, including “official” (“police”) forces, suffered a humiliating defeat in the first post-Oslo hostilities with the IDF.

May 2003 – Sharon gets cabinet ministers’ approval for “Palestinian state” approach (hope event)
Turning point in Sharon’s political career. Sharon had never called liberated territories “occupied” and had urged soldiers and officers to ignore orders to deport Jewish populations of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza as deliberately illegal. The event occurred a few months after the electoral victory of a right-wing coalition mandated to wind up the Oslo process.

December 2003- February 2004 – Presentation of the Gaza disengagement plan; prisoner exchange with Hizbullah on January 29 (hope events)
A mass release of terrorists (430) was implemented in a knowingly unreasonable exchange.

April 2004 – Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi eliminated (discouraging event, discouraging event)
Hamas, weakened but not destroyed by the blows dealt its leaders in 2004, had by 2007 switched to the struggle against Fatah, after quickly forgetting to fulfill its promise “to swing the gates of hell open for Israel.”

August 2005 – Gaza disengagement (hope event)
Jewish communities were deported from Gaza and northern Samaria in a unilateral move by Sharon’s government.
March 2006 – Amona outpost deportation, Kadima Party wins elections (hope event)
The Kadima Party was formed on the basis of groups splintered off from Likud and from Labor (two mainstream parties). No clear ideological message was presented, only loyalty to Sharon and support for his recent policies. Despite a “centrist” image, the new party was associated with deportations and terrorist leaders got a clear message on Israel’s social and political choices. It was a borderline case (between strategic- and tactical-level events); it caused the Second Lebanon War as Hizbullah was naturally tempted to challenge a morally deficient enemy.
July, August 2006 – Second Lebanon War fought against Hizbullah (both a discouraging event and a hope event; hope dominates)
Prime Minister Olmert’s declaration about the principal goal of the operation—to resume unilateral retreats and deportations—combined with the strict application of the “proportionality” principle in the fighting caused heavy casualties (compare the Cast Lead operation) and encouraged the Hizbullah leaders.
May 2007 – Hamas-Fatah conflict, Hamas takeover of Gaza (discouraging event)

The event is complicated; numerous alternative interpretations are possible (Hamas supporters, for example).;
May 2008 – Negotiations with the Assad regime in an attempt to cede the Golan Heights (hope event)
June, July 2008 – Release of Samir Kuntar (terrorist and proud child-killer) (hope event)
The release accompanied a new “truce” with Hamas; Kuntar was later eliminated in Syria (2015).
December 2008 – Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza (discouraging event)

The invasion was the government’s reaction to a terror escalation in view of early elections. The leftist government’s lack of fear of legal obstacles to the broad use of heavy weaponry prevented heavy IDF heavy casualties and caused heavy Hamas casualties instead.

February 2009 – Elections lost by the left (discouraging event)
A leftist coalition led by Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party lost to a right-wing coalition; after the elections Labor joined the government.

October 2011 – A mass release of terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit (hope event)
1,027 terrorists were released; many have already been rearrested for resuming terrorist activity.
November 2012 – A limited operation against Hamas in Gaza (discouraging event)
Ahmed Jabari, second-in-command of Hamas’s military wing, was eliminated.

July 2013 – Terrorists released as a “gesture” to Fatah (hope event)

78 terrorists were released before the Gaza escalation in 2014 (out of 104 demanded by Fatah and the Obama administration).

December 2013 – The same—a second group of terrorists released (hope event)
March, 2015 – Leftist coalition unexpectedly loses elections (discouraging event)
Labor’s campaign (brand-name “Zionist Camp”) received unprecedented funds (foreign funds included; see the V15 campaign).6 Preelectoral polls showed Labor in a significant lead.7 Most experts failed to predict or even rationally explain the actual outcome of the elections.

One can see here a mix of events often conveying contradictory messages. Short intervals between “tactical” “hope events” and discouraging events make it difficult, if possible at all, to measure the effect by means of statistical analysis. The same factor made reasonable reactions by terrorist leaders difficult (as distinct from “strategic hope events,” which precipitated major policy changes).

Figure 1. The number of civilians killed in terrorist attacks; statistical data per annum

Figure 1. The number of civilians killed in terrorist attacks; statistical data per annum.
Source: National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi). The data have been “cleansed” of victims of other hostile actions (bombardment by the Italian air force during WWII, victims of skirmishes with the British in 1947, and those killed by Iraqi missiles fired in 1991). Data for 2015 (16 dead) are preliminary for the period January-October. Notes: 1987-1991—the First Intifada; 1993—the beginning of the formal Oslo process; 1996-1999—the Oslo process slows down (Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term in office); 2001-2004—the Second Intifada; 2005-2014—the gradual replacement of suicide attacks by missiles fired from Gaza and the preparation of mega-attacks by using tunnels.

Jewish Violence or Jewish Terror?

We have based our analysis on the definition of terror provided above.

We also explained our focus on terrorists who maximize the number of victims and deliberately target civilians. As Walzer (1977, 197) noted regarding similar terrorism: “Its purpose is to destroy the morale of a nation [through] the random murder of innocent people.”

This definition clarifies why armed Jewish underground groups during the British Mandate have been omitted from this article. Some opponents expressed grave concern about this omission: “Although the authors do not consider the Stern Gang and [the Irgun Zvai] Leumi as terrorist groups even though they did kill innocent victims at times (e.g., the bombing of the King David Hotel with over 91 fatalities), these two groups had their aims met. It is very convenient to make up a definition of terrorism that excludes these two groups from being terrorists.”

It is true that the Irgun Zvai Leumi planted the bomb in the King David Hotel under the order of the chief of the unified underground, Moshe Sneh (see references below). It is true that the bomb explosion (on July 22, 1946) left 91 dead. The Irgun’s responsibility and mens rea, however, are far from being an established historical fact; instead it is a disputable issue. The most popular among supporters of the anti-Zionist narrative claim that the warning calls never actually occurred or did not reach the officer in charge, or could be ignored because of a number of previous hoax calls. The problem is, the fact that the group that planted the bomb was detected, charged, and escaped from the hotel under fire is not disputed. The warning call, accompanied by an exchange of fire in the hotel and nearby, could not have been rationally ignored by any responsible officer.

The operation, which caused a forced evacuation of the hotel and destroyed the site of the British military command, was a fairly moderate reaction to:

  • Ongoing British hostilities against Jewish self-defense.
  • “Black Saturday” (June 29, 1946), a British pogrom against the Jewish Agency and principal civilian facilities, had endangered the very existence of organized Jewish life and Jewish self-government.
  • The clear prospect of the transfer of power to Arab community leaders after the expiration of the Mandate.

Thus we reiterate our decision to omit the Jewish militant underground from the analysis because, as a legitimate reaction to the repeated failures of the British administration to protect the tiny Jewish community, it does not fit the definition.

The symmetrical interpretation of Arab militancy as a reaction to Jewish violence cannot be accepted because of both the chronology of the hostilities in question and comparison of the declared goals of the two communities’ leaders. Jewish leaders (both Labor and Revisionist) claimed a readiness to coexist with the Arab community and have fulfilled their promise since 1948 (the Arab minority is growing and flourishing). Arab leaders (including the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini) promised and worked hard (see, e.g., Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1945, Series D, vol. 13, London, 1964)8 to exterminate the Jewish community.


An excerpt from the Israeli left’s version of the King David bombing:

The proposal to blow up the hotel—specifically its southern section—came from Menachem Begin, later Israel’s prime minister but then, head of the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization), also known by its Hebrew acronym, Etzel. [But approval for the operation came from top officials of the Haganah—Moshe Sneh, the chief of general headquarters, and Yitzhak Sadeh, commander of the Palmach, the militia’s elite commando unit.]

There is no doubt that Irgun gave a warning of the impending explosion, but it’s also clear that the warning did not reach anyone “in an official position with any power to take action,” as a British inquiry later concluded.

The mainstream Israeli version of the story:

The Etzel’s (Irgun Zvai Leumi’s) version of the story: ; (pp. 109 – 119)

Notes on Statistical Analysis9

Table 3: Granger causality tests (for 12 lags)

hope1 does not granger cause killed_per_100K



hope2 does not granger cause killed_per_100K



killed_per_100K does not granger cause hope1



killed_per_100K does not granger cause hope2



Notes: Columns 2 and 3 show the results, Chi-squared and p-value, of the Granger causality tests between the first- and second-level hope events and the number of civilian casualties in the period from January 1, 1919, to January 4, 2015, a total of 1,144 monthly observations. Variables hope1 and hope2 (representing first- and second-level hope events respectively) are the binary indicators having a value of 1 when the event occurs and zero otherwise. The variable “killed_per_100K” denotes the number of civilian casualties per 100,000 people. Because of the ordered nature of the hope1 and hope2 variables, we chose the models for ordered choices for the cases where they were the explained variables. The validity of maximum-likelihood estimation for dynamic binary choice models was established in de Jong and Woutersen (2004).

Table 4. Granger causality tests with shortened list of “hope events”

hope1 does not granger cause killed_per_100K



hope2 does not granger cause killed_per_100K



killed_per_100K does not granger cause hope1



killed_per_100K does not granger cause hope2



Table 5. Strategy choice and casualties (per annum data analysis, 1919-2013)

Dependent variable: Number of terror victims







Tit-for-tat strategy





State of Israel years dummy







The hope event and next 3 years










Number of obs.




Pseudo R2




Note: *** p<0.01, ** p<0.05, * p<0.1.

* * *



2 “Sir John Chancellor, himself favorably disposed to Arab claims to Palestine, succinctly defined the intermediary role His Majesty’s Government was playing between Arab and Jew. He said that ‘there is a tendency here to regard the Government as sort of umpire and scorer, trying to hold the balance between the two races, noting when one scores off the other, and regarding it as only fair that the next point in the game should be scored by the race that lost the preceding one.’” C. M. Stein, 1980.

3 That is, the inverse of the “hope event.”

4; Julian Hana Levi, “PM Reflects on First Recording of Brother Yoni’s Voice,” Jewish Press, May 5, 2014,

5 Although it was actually blocked by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the very fact of the attempt to finalize a decision to give away land was a strong and clear indication that Israel’s leadership had no will to annex the territories (see

6; legal financial schemes from private sources were much more significant:

7 See the polls archive at

8, 876-81.

9 Dataset is available at:;