The Spiral of Violence? An Empirical Analysis of Violence in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 08.03.2005, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

David A. Jaeger (CUNY Graduate Center)


This paper studies the dynamics of violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the outbreak of the second (“al-Aqsa”) Intifada in September 2000, during which more than 3,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed. The violence has followed an uneven pattern, with periods of both high levels of violence and periods of relative calm. We document that deaths among Palestinians occur primarily among younger men while those among Israelis are somewhat more evenly distributed across ages and sexes. We also find that there has been a substantial shift towards suicide attacks as the primary means by which Israelis are killed, while Palestinians have been consistently most likely to be killed by gunfire throughout the Intifada. Using data on the number of deaths occurring each day between September 2000 and April 2004, we estimate reaction functions for both Israelis and Palestinians and find evidence of unidirectional Granger causality from Palestinian violence to Israeli violence, but not vice versa. This finding is consistent whether we look only at the incidence of casualties or whether we look at the level of casualties, and is also robust to the specification of the lag structure used. We find little evidence that violence on either side has a direct deterrent effect. We also find that the construction of the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank has had little impact on the incidence or level of violence, while the extended Israeli military presence in the occupied territories after “Operation Defensive Shield” (i.e., since mid-2002) has reduced the incidence of Palestinian violence against Israelis. The estimated parameters of the reaction functions changed somewhat over the period examined, with the unidirectional Granger causality holding only until the end of “Operation Defensive Shield” and its immediate aftermath, after which we find little evidence of Granger causality in either direction. We conclude that, despite the popular perception that Palestinians and Israelis are engaged in “tit-for-tat” violence, there is no evidence to support that notion. Rather, the Israelis (at least until mid-2002) reacted in a predictable and statistically significant way to Palestinian violence against them while Palestinian actions were not related to Israeli violence, either through revenge or deterrence.

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