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Israel's Reprisal Policy 1953-1956: The Dynamics of Military Retaliation

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Following Israel's War of Independence in 1948 and 1949, the anticipated peace did not materialize and the new nation soon found itself embroiled in protracted military conflict with neighbouring Arab states. Demobilization of its armed forces led to the formation of special elite unit under the command of Ariel Sharon to cope with cross-border infiltration, pillage and mu Following Israel's War of Independence in 1948 and 1949, the anticipated peace did not materialize and the new nation soon found itself embroiled in protracted military conflict with neighbouring Arab states. Demobilization of its armed forces led to the formation of special elite unit under the command of Ariel Sharon to cope with cross-border infiltration, pillage and murder. A policy of deterrence was governed by the tactic of retaliation, which contained the seeds of escalation. At the same time, a military dynamic unfolded in which the logic of field unit response dictated both military and political policy and caught the imagination of a demoralized and war-weary Israeli society. The myth of the Israeli paratroopers at the beginning of the 1950s, and their heroic deeds in the reprisal raids, embodied the new Zionist ethos for which the current Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, claims much of the credit. The book thus provides historical insight into some of the most intractable developments of the current Arab-Israeli conflict.


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Following Israel's War of Independence in 1948 and 1949, the anticipated peace did not materialize and the new nation soon found itself embroiled in protracted military conflict with neighbouring Arab states. Demobilization of its armed forces led to the formation of special elite unit under the command of Ariel Sharon to cope with cross-border infiltration, pillage and mu Following Israel's War of Independence in 1948 and 1949, the anticipated peace did not materialize and the new nation soon found itself embroiled in protracted military conflict with neighbouring Arab states. Demobilization of its armed forces led to the formation of special elite unit under the command of Ariel Sharon to cope with cross-border infiltration, pillage and murder. A policy of deterrence was governed by the tactic of retaliation, which contained the seeds of escalation. At the same time, a military dynamic unfolded in which the logic of field unit response dictated both military and political policy and caught the imagination of a demoralized and war-weary Israeli society. The myth of the Israeli paratroopers at the beginning of the 1950s, and their heroic deeds in the reprisal raids, embodied the new Zionist ethos for which the current Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, claims much of the credit. The book thus provides historical insight into some of the most intractable developments of the current Arab-Israeli conflict.

10 review for Israel's Reprisal Policy 1953-1956: The Dynamics of Military Retaliation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    The newly-independent state of Israel faced many challenges, not the least of which were porous borders, over which Arab "infiltrators" would slip to rob, commit sabotage and murder Israel civilians. The Israel Defense Forces began a policy of attacking Arab villages and towns in retaliation, but switched to a strategy of only attacking Arab military and police targets after a botched operation at Qibya in Jordan ("Operation Shoshana") left 69 villagers dead; two-thirds of whom were women and ch The newly-independent state of Israel faced many challenges, not the least of which were porous borders, over which Arab "infiltrators" would slip to rob, commit sabotage and murder Israel civilians. The Israel Defense Forces began a policy of attacking Arab villages and towns in retaliation, but switched to a strategy of only attacking Arab military and police targets after a botched operation at Qibya in Jordan ("Operation Shoshana") left 69 villagers dead; two-thirds of whom were women and children. In the same era, both the State and the IDF were struggling to absorb over a million Jewish immigrants, many of whom were from North African and Middle Eastern countries and had difficulties adapting to a Western-style society. The effects on the IDF's infantry brigades in particular were deleterious. Needing to create a special unit that would both carry out reprisal raids deep in enemy territory and serve as an example to the rest of the IDF as to what they were capable of, the special 101 unit was combined with the Paratroop Battalion, and placed under the command of Ariel Sharon. The new outfit showed courage, dedication to their missions, outstanding leadership and tactical brilliance in carrying the new policy of attacking Arab fortified military and police objectives, and raised moral in Israel, both in and outside of the military. An important component of Ze'ev Drory's fine overview of this crucial period in Israel's history is his examination of the upper political and military leadership, specifically of David Ben Gurion (Prime Minister and Minister of Defense), Moshe Sharett (Foreign and, latterly, Prime Minister) and General Moshe Dayan (IDF Chief of Staff). These three dominated the security scene, but occasionally worked at cross-purposes and were less than totally honest with each other about their objectives and strategies. Eventually, as the number and brutality of the infiltrators' murderous acts grew, the IDF responded with increasing violence, some saying that they had lost their heads. This short but dense work is a must-read for those who are interested in the early years of the IDF and in Israel's security policies in that same era. One small sour note: A few maps of the actions would not have gone amiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Liam

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dipanjan

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tayeba

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

  7. 4 out of 5

    Will

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tina Adcock

  10. 5 out of 5

    Krzysiek (Chris)

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