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Defending the Holy Land

A Critical Analysis of Israel's Security and Foreign Policy

Zeev Maoz

Publication Year: 2009

Defending the Holy Land is the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel's national security and foreign policy, from the inception of the State of Israel to the present. Author Zeev Maoz's unique double perspective, as both an expert on the Israeli security establishment and esteemed scholar of Mideast politics, enables him to describe in harrowing detail the tragic recklessness and self-made traps that pervade the history of Israeli security operations and foreign policy. Most of the wars in which Israel was involved, Maoz shows, were entirely avoidable, the result of deliberate Israeli aggression, flawed decision-making, and misguided conflict management strategies. None, with the possible exception of the 1948 War of Independence, were what Israelis call "wars of necessity." They were all wars of choice-or, worse, folly. Demonstrating that Israel's national security policy rested on the shaky pairing of a trigger-happy approach to the use of force with a hesitant and reactive peace diplomacy, Defending the Holy Land recounts in minute-by-minute detail how the ascendancy of Israel's security establishment over its foreign policy apparatus led to unnecessary wars and missed opportunites for peace. A scathing and brilliant revisionist history, Defending the Holy Land calls for sweeping reform of Israel's foreign policy and national security establishments. This book will fundamentally transform the way readers think about Israel's troubled history. Zeev Maoz is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis. He is the former head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy and of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as the former academic director of the M.A. Program at the Israeli Defense Forces' National Defense College. Cover photograph: Israel, Jerusalem, Western Wall and The Dome of The Rock. Courtesy of Corbis.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. xiii-xiv


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1 The Israeli Security Puzzle: Conceptions, Approaches, Paradoxes

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pp. 3-44

On May 12, 1948, a group of nine men and one woman met in Tel Aviv to decide on the establishment of a new state. Around them, a ferocious civil war had been going on for the past six months. The British mandate was to expire in two days. The ten members of the Provisional State Council of the Jewish Agency faced a tough dilemma. The United Nations (UN) resolution of November 29, 1947, decreed that Palestine...


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2 The Sinai War: The Making of the Second Round

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pp. 47-79

On October 29, 1956, Israel carried out an unprovoked attack on Egypt. This attack was coordinated with Great Britain and France, according to a predesigned plan that had been signed at a conference held in the city of Sèvres near Paris six days earlier. This plan entailed the following scenario. In the first stage, the IDF would raid deep into the Sinai by parachuting a battalion next to the Mitla pass—some thirty kilometers...

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3 The Six Day War: Playing with Fire

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pp. 80-112

The typical study of the events and processes leading up to the Six Day War covers the following sequence. During the winter and spring of 1967, Israeli-Syrian relations escalated significantly. Exchanges of artillery fire, infiltrations of Palestinian guerrillas from Syria into Israel, and concentrated efforts by each state to derail irrigation and water projects of the other became a daily matter. The war of words between the two states...

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4 The War of Attrition: The First Payment for Arrogance

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pp. 113-139

The War of Attrition is said to have resulted from an Egyptian decision to launch a static war against Israel in March 1969. Most accounts suggest that Egypt launched this war to accomplish three objectives. First, Nasser wanted to demonstrate to the Egyptian people that Egypt was down but not out of the conflict following the Six Day War. Second, ...

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5 The Yom Kippur War: The War That Shouldn’t Have Been

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pp. 140-170

At 2:00 p.m. on October 6, 1973, a massive artillery barrage coming from the Egyptian side hit Israeli soldiers stationed along the Suez Canal. At precisely the same time, an all-out barrage from the Syrian side hit Israeli targets on the Golan Height. Egyptian and Syrian units moved across the cease-fire lines in a coordinated attack on Israeli positions. This action started what came to be known in Israel as the Yom Kippur...

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6 The Lebanese Swamp, 1981–2000

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pp. 171-230

By now it is widely recognized that the Lebanon War was a disaster for Israel, a minor one perhaps, but a disaster nevertheless. The only one person who fails to admit it is Ariel Sharon, the chief architect of that war. But the scope and nature of the debacle in Lebanon have never been fully explored. This chapter examines ...

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7 The Unlimited Use of the Limited Use of Force: Israel and Low-Intensity Warfare

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pp. 231-298

As I mentioned in part I, Israel has been involved in 166 dyadic militarized interstate disputes (MIDs) short of war throughout its history. The dyadic MID data set (Maoz 2005) and the updated MID 3.1 data set1 suggest that there was only one year out of fifty-six years of history in which Israel did not engage in acts involving the threat, display, or limited use of force with its neighbors. The only year in which Israel...


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8 The Mixed Blessing of Israel’s Nuclear Policy

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pp. 301-357

Most observers of Israel’s national security seem to agree on three issues regarding its nuclear policy. First, Israel has acquired significant nuclear capability over a relatively long time. Second, its policy of nuclear ambiguity seems to have been balanced and sound, enabling it to develop its arsenal along with maintaining close relations with the United States and other states committed to nuclear nonproliferation. Third, and most important, the combination of nuclear ...


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9 Israeli Intervention in Intra-Arab Affairs

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pp. 361-385

As noted several times in previous chapters, one of the recurrent elements of Israel’s nightmare scenario involved the fear of becoming internationally isolated. The fact that Israel was surrounded by four Arab states and the belief (which was only partially true at best) that these states were often aided by other Arab states made that fear all the more salient in Israel’s security calculations. The political-military leadership,...

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10 Never Missing an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity: The Israeli Nonpolicy of Peace in the Middle East

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pp. 386-495

The Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity” was Abba Eban’s astute observation. Underlying Eban’s statement was a long-held Israeli notion: Israel has repeatedly stretched out its hand to peace, but this hand was left hanging for a long time; there was no real partner for peace on the other side. This notion is not just an empty slogan; it is a widely held belief by many Israeli politicians and by Israeli public ...


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11 The Structure and Process of National Security and Foreign Policy in Israel

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pp. 499-543

This study has identified a number of serious problems of a continuing and persistent nature in the ways Israel designed and carried out its security and foreign policy. These problems are recurrent over time and across policy areas. In each of the preceding chapters I attempted to account for the underlying causes of the policy problems I identified. I examined ...

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12 Principal Findings and Lessons

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pp. 544-563

This study’s purpose was not to document history but rather to evaluate policy. I examined various episodes in Israel’s history—principally the major wars in which it was involved—as well as long-term policy issues—such as the limited use of force, nuclear policy, peace diplomacy, and covert interventions. Several common findings emerge from this investigation. The following section outlines the most...

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13 If So Bad, Why So Good?: Explaining the Paradox of the Israeli Success Story

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pp. 564-596

In this chapter I deal with a fundamental paradox that emerges out of this study. Specifically, how can we explain the seemingly phenomenal success story of the Jewish state despite the tale of follies, problems, and fiascos exposed in the present study? I first discuss the paradox of Israel’s success. I then attempt to explain it. In the concluding section, I derive some policy implications of this paradox....

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14 Paths to the Future: Scenarios and Prescriptions

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pp. 597-620

A study of this sort cannot be concluded without discussing the implications of its key findings. One question arising out of the discussion of the problems in Israel’s security and foreign policy is, What next? For example, what happens if the trends we have detailed in the present study continue uninterrupted? How ...

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Afterword: The Second Lebanon Fiasco and the Never-Ending Intifada

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pp. 621-632

On July 12, 2006, a well-planned attack of the Hizballah on an IDF convoy inside northern Israel resulted in the killing of three Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of an additional two. A unit that attempted to chase the kidnappers ran into another ambush, and the clash resulted in an additional five Israeli fatalities and a destroyed tank (Vinograd 2007, 66)....


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pp. 633-664


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pp. 665-668


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pp. 669-693

Author Index

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pp. 695-700

Subject Index

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pp. 701-743

E-ISBN-13: 9780472021734
E-ISBN-10: 0472021737
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472033416
Print-ISBN-10: 0472033417

Page Count: 744
Illustrations: 21 Figures, 9 Tables
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 603463238
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Defending the Holy Land

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Subject Headings

  • Israel -- Foreign relations.
  • Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • National security -- Israel.
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