Spoiling, Seasonality, & State Measures: Drivers of Factional Palestinian Terrorism (1987-2004)


This study is the first to quantitatively assess key drivers of Palestinian terrorism from 1987-2004 according to different categories: extremists (Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad), moderates (Palestine Liberation Organization-affiliated groups), and unattributed terrorists. Previous research either explains variation in total Palestinian terrorist attacks or tests fewer variables. In support of terrorist spoiling arguments, regression analyses show that Palestinian extremists strategically wage attacks in an effort to disrupt peace negotiations, harden the Israeli electorate, and help usher in right-wing governments that further stifle the peace process. Moderate factions, however, are more likely to welcome Israeli overtures and scale back violence. Imposing collective punishments of Palestinian society and rewarding terrorist perpetrators lead to increased attacks across the Palestinian terrorist spectrum. While targeted coercive measures produce mixed results, denial strategies may be more effective. Seasonality and religious holidays also play a role in driving violence. Moderates are more likely to reduce attacks during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, while extremists escalate violence during the spring season characterized by low agricultural harvests and several major Jewish holidays. This study offers implications for several sub-fields of political violence including the strategic logics of terrorism, counterinsurgency practices, rebel fragmentation, and other conflict dynamics.

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TSAS RR 2020-02

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