That governments never negotiate with terrorists is a refrain well worn but false. Two Israeli scholars have now challenged the veracity of the parallel argument – that terrorism does not coerce governments into changing their policies. In the first systematic examination of whether terrorism is an effective strategy to achieve political ends, they conclude that Palestinian terror attacks forced Israel to accommodate Palestinian goals. Terror attacks “significantly affects the preferences and attitudes of Jewish Israelis” and the attacks “induced the local population to exhibit a higher willingness to grant territorial concessions.” But at some point the violence reaches a tipping point where Israeli attitudes harden and Israeli opinion refuses further thought of concession.
Writing in the October 2010 issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Professors Eric Gould and Eseban Klor compared over time Jewish Israeli opinion and civilian Israeli fatalities based on statistical data derived from political attitude surveys of Israeli citizens conducted from 1969. They determined with the use of regression analysis that “terrorism brought about a leftward shift of the entire political map in Israel over the last twenty years, including the position of right-wing parties who are traditionally less willing to grant territorial concessions to the Palestinians.” Terrorism prompted Israeli voters to move to rightwing parties but those parties in turn moved “leftward” in their political views, by which Gould and Klor mean they moderated their political stance. Left-leaning groups supported right-wing parties “only because the right-wing parties are moving to the left.” The “Likud’s position in 2009,” the authors point out, “is to the left of the left-wing Labor party’s platform in 1988.”
Gould and Klor conclude their study reveals that “terrorism can be an effective strategy” because right-wing Israeli parties were forced to concede “concession to the Palestinians.” But while the rhetoric of Israel’s right-wing parties may have changed, the facts on the ground expose an entirely different reality. The Likud may be talking the language of territorial concession but it consistently has pursued the goal of territorial annexation.
Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been relentless. Since 1993 when Israel signed the Oslo Accords, Israel’s West Bank settler population grew from 116,300 to 289,600 in 2009. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem puts the total settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at over 300,000. Only photographs can capture the reality of settler colonization in the West Bank.
Land confiscation in the occupied territories has been persistent, with Jewish settlers now holding about 42 percent of the land. A map revealing the extensive swath of West Bank land that Israel is permitted to control for “security” purposes under the Oslo Accords is jaw dropping and underscores claims that the territorial compromise as envisioned by Israel and the United States subjugates Palestinians to a Bantustan-like existance. Human Rights Watch documented the existence of two-tier system of laws, rules, and services that Israel operates in the West Bank that favors Jewish settlers but imposes harsh conditions on Palestinians. The cumulative result of such policies, concludes University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is that the “two-state solution is now a fantasy” as Israel incorporates the occupied territories into a ‘Greater Israel.’”
Gould and Klor correctly concluded that Palestinian violence successfully coerced Israeli pubic opinion to accept territorial compromise, but the suggestion that it was an “effective strategy” toward achieving Palestinian independence is woefully misplaced.