Choosing the Right Strategy: Why the Palestinians Were More Successful in the First Intifada than in the Second?

Hillel Frisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Choosing a strategy that polarizes the rival’s political center is often critical in determining the relative success of the weaker side in asymmetric conflict. This proposition is tested on two rounds of protracted confrontations between Palestinians and Israel in 1987 and 2000. In the first intifada, the Palestinians limited terrorism primarily to the West Bank and Gaza, polarized the Israeli political center and secured substantial political gains. In the second, the Palestinians employed much more violent means and focused it within Israel. This indiscriminate strategy (which included suicide bombings) united the Israeli public against the Palestinians, justified the Israeli onslaught on the Palestinian Authority, and divided the Palestinians themselves at considerable political, human, and economic cost. The comparison between Palestinian strategy and its consequences in two long rounds of conflict with the Israeli state suggests an important theoretical and empirical finding; it is not so much the strategy employed by the stronger side that determines outcomes as Ivan Arreguin-Toft suggests but the strategy employed by the weaker actor in conflict. Employing a strategy that polarizes the political center of the opponent and weakens its resolve is critical to the insurgent’s ability to succeed against its stronger opponent. In the first intifada, the Palestinians were able to polarize the foe’s political center. In the second intifada, the Palestinians failed to do the same at substantial human, material, and political costs, including a civil war in 2007 and the Hamas’ takeover of Gaza.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-191
Number of pages16
JournalContemporary Review of the Middle East
Volume2
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 SAGE Publications India Private Limited.

Keywords

  • First intifada
  • Gaza Strip
  • Hamas
  • Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
  • West bank
  • al-Aqsa intifada

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