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Eli Berman - Mostly Deterred: An Episodic Analysis of the Israel-Gaza Conflict

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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

Sovereignty, Order and Conflict


Eli Berman

Professor, University of California, San Diego

This paper assesses deterrence between a State and a Non-State actor in the context of the Israel - Gaza conflict. We build a comprehensive data set covering 2007- 2014 using original United Nations security reports, which capture over 16,000 Palestinian projectile launches and over 8,600 Israeli airstrikes, recorded with precise timing. We find a conflict characterized by frequent, short episodes of violence separated by quiet interludes. Episodes last less than one day and are followed by 3.5 days of calm, on average. Most episodes consist only of provocations that go unanswered. Moreover, most retaliation and counter-retaliation do not induce subsequent episodes. They appear to de-escalate within episode. These findings are consistent with a dynamic equilibrium exhibiting incomplete deterrence. Our data are inconsistent with the argument that retaliation perpetuates or escalates this conflict, though that conclusion could be drawn by misinterpreting a dynamic game with a vector autoregression approach.

Eli Berman is IGCC Research Director for International Security Studies and professor of economics at UC San Diego. He co-directs the Economics of National Security group at the National Bureau of Economic Research and helps lead the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project. He is president of the Economics of National Security Association. Publications include: Proxy Wars (with David Lake, 2019), Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict (with Jacob N. Shapiro and Joseph H. Felter, 2018) and Radical, Religious and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism (2009).


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