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The Situational Prevention of Terrorism: An Evaluation of the Israeli West Bank Barrier

Abstract

Objectives

Informed by situational crime prevention (SCP) this study evaluates the effectiveness of the “West Bank Barrier” that the Israeli government began to construct in 2002 in order to prevent suicide bombing attacks.

Methods

Drawing on crime wave models of past SCP research, the study uses a time series of terrorist attacks and fatalities and their location in respect to the Barrier, which was constructed in different sections over different periods of time, between 1999 and 2011.

Results

The Barrier together with associated security activities was effective in preventing suicide bombings and other attacks and fatalities with little if any apparent displacement. Changes in terrorist behavior likely resulted from the construction of the Barrier, not from other external factors or events.

Conclusions

In some locations, terrorists adapted to changed circumstances by committing more opportunistic attacks that require less planning. Fatalities and attacks were also reduced on the Palestinian side of the Barrier, producing an expected “diffusion of benefits” though the amount of reduction was considerably more than in past SCP studies. The defensive roles of the Barrier and offensive opportunities it presents, are identified as possible explanations. The study highlights the importance of SCP in crime and counter-terrorism policy.

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Notes

  1. Soon after the Second Intifada, which began in Oct. 2000 and peaked in 2002, Ehud Barak, then the Prime Minister of Israel, vowed to build a separation Barrier. There had been 5180 terrorist attacks of all kinds originating from the Palestinian territories in 2001–2002 resulting in 603 deaths, according to the Israeli Security Agency (ISA).

  2. Israeli law stipulates that terrorism is: inflicting harm to a person's body, or freedom, or putting a person in danger of death or at risk of serious injury, creating a real risk to the health or safety of the public, serious damage to property and serious disruption of infrastructure systems or essential services - to influence political, ideological or religious issues. (http://www.nevo.co.il/law_html/Law01/999_377.htm#Seif1).

  3. Earlier studies undertaken by the economists Enders and Sandler (1993, 1995, 2004) claimed that the bag and passenger screening measures had displaced terrorism to other countries of the world. Clarke and Newman (2006) criticized their conclusions on theoretical and methodological grounds. Among their criticisms were that Enders and Sandler were unaware of the SCP literature on the limits of displacement; they ignored the special skills, knowledge and resources required by different forms of terrorist attack; they ignored the very considerable differences in the purposes of different forms of terrorism, especially terrorism committed by far-flung groups; and they made the dubious assumption that terrorist organizations are somehow closely connected worldwide. See also Drakos and Kutan (2003) and Dugan et al. (2006).

  4. See the particularly informative and well documented review of the Barrier provided in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_West_Bank_Barrier.

  5. This description of the Barrier characteristics is based on the judgment of the Supreme Court President, Aharon Barak, case number 04/2056.

  6. At the beginning of the Second Intifada, Amitai Levy, a police officer in Jerusalem proposed the construction of improvised Barriers to block the routes suicide bombers were taking into his community. At the end of 2001 the Jerusalem District Police started constructing the improvised Barriers at critical locations. Contractors voluntarily undertook this work, while private security companies contributed security barbed wire. (Personal communication 1/14/2014 from Major General (retired) Miki Levy who approved the project and eventually received permission from the then-Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to continue construction.)

  7. This study uses the ISA definition of suicide bombings as attacks in which the bomber activates an explosive device that he or she carries or transports, deliberately killing her or himself in order to kill others. This conforms to the definition used by Weinberg et al. (2003) and Pedahzur et al. (2003). Broader definitions typically include those in which the perpetrator expected to be killed but was not (Cook 2002; Merari 1990).

  8. It might be argued that since the ISA’s primary goal is to prevent terrorism, its clear interest (if manipulating the statistics) would be to demonstrate its effectiveness by under reporting the number of attacks. The considerable fluctuation in the number of attacks, (relatively low in 1999, sharply increasing at the end of 2000, and thereafter decreasing again) strengthens confidence in the reliability of the data. In addition, cross-sample tests that we performed, consisting of randomly selected comparisons between the attacks reported by the ISA and those reported by other sources, found no evidence of bias.

  9. We thank the anonymous reviewer of this paper for drawing attention to this discrepancy. The GTD data also included attacks from GAZA that were not included in our analysis. http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/Results.aspx?chart=country&casualties_type=b&casualties_max=&start_yearonly=1999&end_yearonly=2011&dtp2=all&country=97,155.

  10. Two comments about the statistical models are relevant here. The dependent variables, because they are differenced, are approximately normally distributed, although somewhat leptokurtic (i.e., more peaked or concentrated about the mean than a perfect normal distribution). We thus employ least squares regressions. In all models, we also confirm that the residuals are white noise, implying that the first-order lag suffices to remove autocorrelation.

  11. One tactical advantage of suicide bombing is that bombers can in the process of the attack shift to a secondary target, which may even have been planned. However, this change in tactics is still location-bound because the secondary target would need to be close to the primary target.

  12. The extent to which suicide attacks require logistical support at their location varies according to venue and type of suicide attack (Merari 2010; Ganor 2000).

  13. Significance levels and effect sizes remained virtually the same when the pre-Intifada quarters were removed, that is, when beginning the analysis in the third quarter of 2000.

  14. Models were not estimated for two segments due to low volume of terrorist activity prior to initiation of the Barrier, or else sparsity following the Barrier becoming operational. These results are not tabulated, but the models parameterized the Barrier intervention identically to those in Table 3. Specifically, the models included a lagged dummy variable indicating the quarter when construction on the Barrier first began in the referent segment, and the lagged proportional length of the Barrier that is operational in that segment. The models also included the lag of the cross-border series to accommodate the possibility that a spike in terrorist activity on the Palestinian side of the Barrier bleeds over to the Israeli side. Otherwise, the lag of the referent series also remained in the models, and the models were estimated in first differences.

  15. From a 2004 review, “Summary of 4 years of Conflict—Data and Trends of Terror” on the ISA web site.

  16. These models were estimated as before, but supplemented with a lagged dummy variable indicating initiation of the Barrier in at least one contiguous segment, as well as the lag of the total volume of terrorist activity in contiguous segments. Displacement was indicated by a positive coefficient on Barrier initiation in spatially proximate segments. In no instance was this coefficient positive.

  17. Pape and Bloom notwithstanding, there is no evidence that all terrorist attacks in Israel on the West Bank are centrally organized. There is plenty of evidence that suicide bombings and other complex attacks are so organized in Gaza, but not on the West Bank where many of the attacks are the outcome of local initiatives, and are not directed by the central leadership (Pedahzur 2005: 170).

  18. http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4536731,00.html.

  19. http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/data/pdf/PDF_18892_1.pdf; http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Data/articles/Art_20852/H_128_15_632639130.pdf.

  20. The wall around Baghdad that was built during the U.S. occupation was torn down in 2008 after the successful surge that reduced conflict in Iraq, only to be resurrected again in 2016 in the face of renewed conflict (Reuters, Baghdad, Wednesday, 3 February 2016). One media report claimed that 65 countries had recently built walls for security reasons (Daily Mail. Thursday, Feb 4th 2016). Walls have been or are in the process of being built in Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3205724/How-65-countries-erected-security-walls-borders.html#ixzz3zCpOnCKw.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

See Fig. 4.

Fig. 4
figure 4

Map of barrier built, segment borders and 1967 lines

Appendix 2

See Table 3.

Table 3 Effect sizes (Cohen’s d) from regression models of the impact of the Barrier on quarterly terrorist attacks and fatalities (Israeli side of the Barrier)

Appendix 3

See Table 4.

Table 4 Effect sizes (Cohen’s d) from regression models of the impact of the Barrier on quarterly terrorist attacks and fatalities (Palestinian side of the Barrier)

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Perry, S., Apel, R., Newman, G.R. et al. The Situational Prevention of Terrorism: An Evaluation of the Israeli West Bank Barrier. J Quant Criminol 33, 727–751 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-016-9309-6

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Keywords

  • Israel
  • Terrorism
  • Suicide bombing
  • Situational crime prevention
  • Security barriers
  • Displacement