Mostly Deterred: An Episodic Analysis of The Israel-Gaza Conflict

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This paper assesses the validity of narrow deterrence theory between a State and a Non-State actor in the context of the Israel and Gaza conflict.  We build the most comprehensive data set on this conflict between 2007 and 2014 using original security reports from the United Nations, which capture over 16,000 Palestinian projectile launches and over 8,800 Israeli airstrikes, recorded with precise timing. We show that this conflict is characterized by short-lived episodes of violence separated by quiet interludes. Episodes tend to last less than one day and are followed by 3.5 days of calm, on average. Most episodes have no retaliation and consist only of provocations that go unanswered. Moreover, counter-retaliation does not induce subsequent episodes. We find that Israeli retaliation strongly correlates with Gazans’ initial number of attacks and type of rockets fired. Yet, rather than provoking an immediate increase in violence or de-escalation, retaliation seems to have no short-term effect. These findings support the concept of narrow deterrence and weigh heavily against the argument that retaliation perpetuates this conflict.

Last updated on 09/02/2020