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The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism

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"While Mossad is known as one of the world's most successful terrorist-fighting organizations, the state of Israel has, more than once and on many levels, risked the lives of its agents and soldiers through unwise intelligence-based intervention. The elimination of Palestinian leaders and militants has not decreased the incidence of Palestinian terrorism, for example. In fact, these incidents have become more lethal than ever, and ample evidence suggests that the actions of Israeli intelligence have fueled terrorist activities across the globe." An expert on terror and political extremism, Ami Pedahzur argues that Israel's strict reliance on the elite units of the intelligence community is fundamentally flawed. A unique synthesis of memoir, academic research, and information gathered from print and online sources, Pedahzur's complex study explores this issue through Israel's past encounters with terrorists, specifically hostage rescue missions, the first and second wars in Lebanon, the challenges of the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian terrorist groups, and Hezbollah. He brings a rare transparency to Israel's counterterrorist activities, highlighting their successes and failures and the factors that have contributed to these results. From the foundations of this analysis, Pedahzur ultimately builds a strategy for future confrontation that will be relevant not only to Israel but also to other countries that have adopted Israel's intelligence-based model.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

As the U.S. has grappled with the specter and reality of terrorism, American leaders have routinely consulted with Israel's experts to fashion a similar offensive approach to extremists. But Israeli author Pedahzur (Violence: Defending Democracy) makes a compelling case for one inconvenient if underreported fact: Israel's approach hasn't worked. Dividing the potential responses to terrorism into four categories (defensive, reconciliatory, criminal -justice and war), the author tracks the development of an Israeli war model and demonstrates that rather than sending terrorists running, the approach "leads to an escalating cycle of terrorism," citing many examples in which Israel's elimination of threats has created the impetus for more violence. This book makes an excellent case that the war model "is flawed not only because it undermines civil liberties... but also because it is simply unsuitable for the challenge of terrorism and causes the security establishment to deviate from dealing with other, more imminent threats." While Pedahzur's style leans toward the dryly academic, his insights are so well reasoned and relevant that the pages almost turn themselves. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
New York Post
[A] superb examination of Israel's secret services.

— Daniel Byman

Jewish Book World
More than entertaining spy stories... this book will be a great aid to other Western countries around the world struggling to confront terror.
The Jerusalem Post
[Pedahzur] offers a brilliant description of Israel's fight against terrorism from 1948 to the present.

— Seth J. Frantzman


A fascinating history of counterterrorism by Israeli security agencies... Highly recommended.

Midwest Book Review
The Israeli Secret Services & the Struggles Against Terrorism is a fine read and solidly recommended.

— James A. Cox

the book sheds a great deal of light on the activities of counterterrorism organizations that mostly operate in the shadows and on the seemingly haphazard ways counterterrorism policy is formulated in times of crisis.

— Aaron M. Hoffman

Leonard Weinberg
A succinct but thoroughly researched account of how Israel's security agencies have sought to defeat terrorist organizations from the pre-state Yishuv to events following the 2006 war with Hezbollah. After examining the historical record, Ami Pedahzur concludes that the application of defensive measures has proved more successful in deterring terrorist attacks than 'targeted killings' and other forms of warlike measures.
Martha Crenshaw
Ami Pedahzur has written an astute, well-documented, and compelling analysis of Israel's reliance on the 'war model' to combat terrorism. Israel's political and military leaders were consistently unable to resist the temptation of dramatic and costly uses of force when modest defensive or conciliatory measures were preferable. This lesson should not be lost on any national policymaker confronted by terrorism.
New York Post - Daniel Byman
[A] superb examination of Israel's secret services.
The Jerusalem Post - Seth J. Frantzman
[Pedahzur] offers a brilliant description of Israel's fight against terrorism from 1948 to the present.
Midwest Book Review - James A. Cox
The Israeli Secret Services & the Struggles Against Terrorism is a fine read and solidly recommended.
Shofar - Aaron M. Hoffman
the book sheds a great deal of light on the activities of counterterrorism organizations that mostly operate in the shadows and on the seemingly haphazard ways counterterrorism policy is formulated in times of crisis.
A fascinating history of counterterrorism by Israeli security agencies... Highly recommended.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Ami Pedahzur is professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. His books include Jewish Terrorism in Israel (with Arie Perliger), Suicide Terrorism, and The Israeli Response to Jewish Extremism and Violence: Defending Democracy.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Emergence of Israel's Counterterrorism Doctrine 14

2 The Path to the Defensive Model and Back 30

3 Rescuing Hostages 47

4 The Lebanese Puzzle 66

5 New Challenges from the West Bank and Gaza 75

6 The Global Challenge of Iran and Hezbollah 83

7 New Rivals, Old Responses 94

8 A War Against an Elusive Enemy 111

9 The Second Lebanon War and Beyond 128

10 Fighting the Terrorism Plague 135

Notes 151

Glossary 187

Index 201

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 30, 2009

    A disappointment

    Ami Pedahzur's well researched and technically well written book is a fascinating yet critically flawed look at Israel's counter-terrorism efforts over the last 61 years. He clearly delineates 4 distinct counter-terrorism models (Defensive, War, Reconciliatory, and Criminal Justice) and attempts to map out Israel's experiences with implementing them at various times during its history.
    The author brings very selective instances to try to prove his thesis that neither the War nor the Criminal Justice models are effective. Many of these instances of "failures" were (as pointed out in the text) not strategic, tactical, or policy failures, in fact they were technical failures brought about by faulty equipment, bad communication, insufficient training, or just bad luck. Pedahzur fails to take into account that Israel has never in its 61 year history, ever relied on any one of the four models he identifies exclusively. Israel has always relied on a multi-tiered approach towards terrorism in order to better fight the threat while also attempting to identify opportunities for negotiation. The author's thesis is flawed from the outset and even if one accepts the thesis, it cannot be proven because of A: Israel's multi tiered approach and B: undocumented successes and still secret operations obviously cannot be taken into account. The book, almost in its entirety, reads like a "leftist, Peace-Now" propaganda piece which it clearly was not meant to be.
    Pedahzur does effectively expose some of the structural flaws in the Israeli military's hierarchy of commando units, and the obvious growing pains that these units (most notably Sayeret Matkal) had during their development. Here, he makes a strong case that a clearer and more distinct doctrine is needed to govern the Israeli Government's military and paramilitary responses to terrorism. This aspect of the book is very effective and provides insightful criticism of the inner-workings of the Israeli military.
    Overall, while this book is technically well written and obviously well researched, it is ultimately a poorly executed attempt at pointing out the flaws in the Israeli government's attempts to battle terrorism. I would not recommend this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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