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Defending the Holy Land is the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel's national security and foreign policy, from the inception of the State of Israel to the present. Author Zeev Maoz's unique double perspective, as both an expert on the Israeli security establishment and esteemed scholar of Mideast politics, enables him to describe in harrowing detail the tragic r Defending the Holy Land is the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel's national security and foreign policy, from the inception of the State of Israel to the present. Author Zeev Maoz's unique double perspective, as both an expert on the Israeli security establishment and esteemed scholar of Mideast politics, enables him to describe in harrowing detail the tragic recklessness and self-made traps that pervade the history of Israeli security operations and foreign policy. Most of the wars in which Israel was involved, Maoz shows, were entirely avoidable, the result of deliberate Israeli aggression, flawed decision-making, and misguided conflict management strategies. None, with the possible exception of the 1948 War of Independence, were what Israelis call "wars of necessity." They were all wars of choice-or, worse, folly. Demonstrating that Israel's national security policy rested on the shaky pairing of a trigger-happy approach to the use of force with a hesitant and reactive peace diplomacy, Defending the Holy Land recounts in minute-by-minute detail how the ascendancy of Israel's security establishment over its foreign policy apparatus led to unnecessary wars and missed opportunites for peace. A scathing and brilliant revisionist history, Defending the Holy Land calls for sweeping reform of Israel's foreign policy and national security establishments. This book will fundamentally transform the way readers think about Israel's troubled history. Zeev Maoz is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis. He is the former head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy and of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as the former academic director of the M.A. Program at the Israeli Defense Forces' National Defense College.  Cover photograph: Israel, Jerusalem, Western Wall and The Dome of The Rock. Courtesy of Corbis.


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Defending the Holy Land is the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel's national security and foreign policy, from the inception of the State of Israel to the present. Author Zeev Maoz's unique double perspective, as both an expert on the Israeli security establishment and esteemed scholar of Mideast politics, enables him to describe in harrowing detail the tragic r Defending the Holy Land is the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel's national security and foreign policy, from the inception of the State of Israel to the present. Author Zeev Maoz's unique double perspective, as both an expert on the Israeli security establishment and esteemed scholar of Mideast politics, enables him to describe in harrowing detail the tragic recklessness and self-made traps that pervade the history of Israeli security operations and foreign policy. Most of the wars in which Israel was involved, Maoz shows, were entirely avoidable, the result of deliberate Israeli aggression, flawed decision-making, and misguided conflict management strategies. None, with the possible exception of the 1948 War of Independence, were what Israelis call "wars of necessity." They were all wars of choice-or, worse, folly. Demonstrating that Israel's national security policy rested on the shaky pairing of a trigger-happy approach to the use of force with a hesitant and reactive peace diplomacy, Defending the Holy Land recounts in minute-by-minute detail how the ascendancy of Israel's security establishment over its foreign policy apparatus led to unnecessary wars and missed opportunites for peace. A scathing and brilliant revisionist history, Defending the Holy Land calls for sweeping reform of Israel's foreign policy and national security establishments. This book will fundamentally transform the way readers think about Israel's troubled history. Zeev Maoz is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis. He is the former head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy and of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as the former academic director of the M.A. Program at the Israeli Defense Forces' National Defense College.  Cover photograph: Israel, Jerusalem, Western Wall and The Dome of The Rock. Courtesy of Corbis.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Phoenix

    Tactics, Strategies and Mistakes This is from the 2009 edition. Brilliant and comprehensive summary of the Arab-Israeli conflict taken from a military perspective, but with a major presumptive flaw, which one can find on pp 33-34 where Maoz comments on "the malice, folly, and incompetence of Arab leaders" claiming that their only relevance would be to "make Israel's mistakes more pronounced." which amounts to overconfidence and hubris. Actions do not take place in a vacuum and to assume that one's Tactics, Strategies and Mistakes This is from the 2009 edition. Brilliant and comprehensive summary of the Arab-Israeli conflict taken from a military perspective, but with a major presumptive flaw, which one can find on pp 33-34 where Maoz comments on "the malice, folly, and incompetence of Arab leaders" claiming that their only relevance would be to "make Israel's mistakes more pronounced." which amounts to overconfidence and hubris. Actions do not take place in a vacuum and to assume that one's opponents are stupid is no excuse to ignore the possibility of their success. Maoz's coverage of Israel's tactical situation is IMV flawless. Lacking geographic depth and surrounded by multiple fronts she has to act quickly, decisively and if need be preemptively. Israel, he observes, does not respond to every attack but uses a "tit for multiple tat" approach (see pp281 but also reference Axelrod's The Complexity of Cooperation: Agent-Based Models of Competition and Collaboration), waiting for the Arabs to overplay their hand, reminding their opponents of the availability of force as a deterrent. Similarly one must extend high praise to his coverage of key historical events and the considerations leading up to them. One area to differ with Maoz is in his assessment that military decision making should necessarily have greater oversight by politicians. The prime example here is the 1982-2000 campaign in Lebanon where Sharon kept the government uninformed obligating deeper and deeper involvement in order to achieve poorly defined and shifting goals, and in this case I completely agree. Sharon's bull headed tactics were long term strategic blunders. The same however must be said of Rabin, Peres and (Ezer) Weizmann who made the mistake of rescuing the PLO from oblivion by designating Arafat, who never grew beyond his role as a terrorist, as a preferred negotiating partner. On the other hand we have the 2006 war in Lebanon prompted by an attack by Hizbollah on Israeli towns and military targets. The response was directed by an inexperienced political branch and should have been terminated near the half way point after the stated goal of recovering the two kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser could not be achieved . A second problem is Maoz's assessment that the 1956 and 1957 wars were wars of choice instead of necessity. If necessity means immediate desperation, then he's right about 1956, though wrong about 1967. That kind of necessity would have come in 1957 or 1958 when the odds would have been much more in favour of the Arabs. Nasser was taking a salami slicing approach of starting from his wars of attrition so that eventually there would have been no options left, the same criticism Maoz uses (correctly) against Sharon in Lebanon. In '56 Nasser had dismissed the UNEF forces which were a buffer between Israel and Egypt and moved his troops into Sinai. The UN had folded much quicker than necessary, not even holding a debate or a vote on the subject, which later led Abba Eban to assess the UN as "an umbrella that is taken away as soon as it has begun to rain." Nasser had also cut off the supply of oil and trade thru the canal - an act of war that in the short term would certainly have had dire effects on Israel's economy, its ability to wage a defense and it delegitimized the principle of the canal as an international waterway. Egyptian Brigadier General Ibrahim Sharkawy's comment in response to UNEF Commander Major General Indar Jit Rikhye question of intent behind the demand for withdrawal yielded "I'll meet you next week at the best restaurant in Tel Aviv" certainly signaled immediacy. The Egyptians had also started to receive large amounts of armaments from the Soviet Union. The situation was similar in 1967 where in addition Nasser was engaged in forging military alliances with other Arab countries, there were 90,000 Egyptian troops and 45,000 Syrian troops at Israel's borders, Jordan was mobilizing, all surrounding air fields had operational orders for attack and there was a naval blockade of her southern port. IMV the mid term intent within the year was to precipitate a war when they had, in their view, reached a point where they could win. In that sense a response in both years was time frames was necessary and optimal. 1973's failure to anticipate and react to Egypt's intentions in advance also supports the argument that Arab rhetoric and need for prestige is a highly important factor to take into account, in spite of a tendency to overplay their military preparedness. Last, consider Maoz's lack of coverage and understanding of the successes and problems along the diplomatic track. I find this unusual in light of his later book Networks of Nations which posits that the larger bar to war is not high level diplomatic pronouncements but the existence of large numbers of lower level connections and interdependencies between the parties. The underlying problem is not so much Israel's "under seige mentality", rather that of side stepping the twin streams of pan-Arab and Islamic nationalism , somewhat at odds with each other but both believing that the Israel's existence represents a fatal hole in the Ummah that thwarts Arab/Muslim Destiny. Back channel communication (Heikal, Wanis-St. John, Zittrain) has been going on since the 1910s. The cold peace with Egypt and the cool peace with Jordan did set the stage for Oslo. And whereas trade with Egypt proved to be entirely one sided, under the radar trade with Morocco, Tunisia and the members of the GCC was reasonable and until the recent Islamic turn of the government, quite brisk with Turkey. However most of the success has had to be quiet; once elevated to the public sphere it becomes subject to rhetorical attack, posturing and even assassinations. Israel's relative safety and economic success are wonderful achievements, but cannot be used to justify giving up strategic military positions either in the Golan or in the Judean hills lest the rocket fire from Gaza spread to these locations as well. Already, under the shield of UN observers, Hiz'b'Allah has been able to flaunt in toto the provisions stipulating the demilitarization of south Lebanon and claims to be capable of hitting any location in Israel, not just the north, once again proving Eban's observations. In spite of these gaps, I strongly recommend Maoz's selection and presentation of events though by adding an emphasis on the external reality it's very reasonable to come to different conclusions. Former Egyptian President for Life Hosni Mubarek once reflected that "The problem in the Arab nation is that if you express your opinion, and this opinion is different from someone else's, you are considered the enemy." The tenor of most Israelis I find is the opposite. Maoz most definitely has a place at the table.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed

    This magisterial account of Israel's security strategy should be required reading for all who are interested in Israeli Studies, Middle East politics, or the dynamics of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Maoz paints a detailed and well-substantiated portrait of an Israeli security élite that seems incapable of thinking more than two steps ahead. What appears to the anti-Israel camp as mendacity, and to the pro-Israel camp as justified defense is exposed as the tragic bumbling of a state that seems inca This magisterial account of Israel's security strategy should be required reading for all who are interested in Israeli Studies, Middle East politics, or the dynamics of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Maoz paints a detailed and well-substantiated portrait of an Israeli security élite that seems incapable of thinking more than two steps ahead. What appears to the anti-Israel camp as mendacity, and to the pro-Israel camp as justified defense is exposed as the tragic bumbling of a state that seems incapable of understanding its neighbors and their motivations. If Israel is to have a successful future in the Middle East, it needs to seriously rethink its strategy towards the Arab nations, now including a non-Arab rival, Iran. One can plainly see how Maoz's analysis can be extended to cogently explain Israel's stance towards the Iranian regime, a stance which suffers from the same foibles that led Israel to engage in numerous disastrous wars of choice with its Arab neighbors. To wit, the tenth chapter, on 'The Israeli Nonpolicy of Peace', which painstakingly charts Israel's 'missed opportunities' for peace, concluding with an expert analysis of the psychological, structural, and political obstacles to Israeli peacemaking, strikes me as the most important chapter in this very important book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jawad Usman

  4. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amir

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nattyc30

  7. 5 out of 5

    Usman Butt

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Marsh

  9. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrew A.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Edgar

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tato Antadze

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark Haichin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caity Maple

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ryuta Fukuya

  16. 4 out of 5

    W

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rizwan Niaz Raiyan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ian Pitchford

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hannes

  20. 5 out of 5

    Henrique

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christian Morse

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ido Zinger

  23. 4 out of 5

    Albert B. Wolf

  24. 5 out of 5

    Deodorant Thief

  25. 5 out of 5

    masoud safaraeefard

  26. 5 out of 5

    Edwin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Bradshaw

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Budman

  30. 5 out of 5

    Meero-slaw

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