ISRAEL: Defending the Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel's Security and Foreign Policy

By Cohen, Stuart A. | The Middle East Journal, Autumn 2006 | Go to article overview
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ISRAEL: Defending the Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel's Security and Foreign Policy


Cohen, Stuart A., The Middle East Journal


ISRAEL Defending the Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel's Security and Foreign Policy, by Zeev Maoz. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2006. xii + 620 pages. Notes to p. 651. Gloss to p. 656. Refs. to p. 680. $45.

Reviewed by Stuart A. Cohen

In recent years, "Israel-bashing" has become fashionable in some academic circles. However, whilst most contemporary attacks on Israel's policies and actions focus on her military behavior during the second Intifadah, in this contribution to the bandwagon Maoz goes considerably further. Far from limiting his horizons to the past decade of violence, he embraces the entire course of the Arab-Israel conflict since 1949. Moreover, not content with providing a critical depiction of Israel's security behavior, he also seeks to analyze why it has failed.

Maoz claims that this book is the product of three decades of thought - and it shows. For one thing, it is splendidly organized. It opens with a depiction of what Maoz terms "the Israeli security puzzle," a powerful analytical framework that sets the tone for nine subsequent empirical chapters. Of these, six survey specific episodes in Israeli military history, one analyses the foundation and evolution of Israel's nuclear policy, and two others cover the chronicle of her diplomatic interactions with her Arab neighbors. There follow four chapters on the "causes and implications of the mismanagement of national security and foreign policy," which close with sketches of possible future scenarios and outlines of topics for further research. The endnotes and bibliography provide ample evidence of the breadth of Maoz's reading and his sensitivity to the research of other scholars.

The body of the book contains a biting indictment of Israel's security and foreign policies. Rather than reflecting a rational assessment of necessities and opportunities, Maoz argues, those policies have persistently - and disastrously - been dominated by a centralized, self-serving, and selfperpetuating security community. This group (perhaps better recently described by Gabi Sheffer and Oren Barak as successive "networks" of like-minded individuals whose perceptions have been shaped by their military experiences and comradeship) bears principal responsibility for the perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. As portrayed by Maoz, in its various incarnations this group has held Israel's entire security doctrine in thrall, principally by exerting hegemonic control over security-related information, assessment and conceptions.

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