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The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism (Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare) 1st Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231140423
ISBN-10: 0231140428
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As the U.S. has grappled with the specter and reality of terrorism, American leaders have routinely consulted with Israels 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: Israels approach hasnt 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 Israels 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 Pedahzurs 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.


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.

(Leonard Weinberg, University of Nevada, Reno)

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.

(Martha Crenshaw, Stanford University)

[Pedahzur's] insights are so well reasoned and relevant that the pages almost turn themselves.

(Publishers Weekly (starred review))

[A] superb examination of Israel's secret services.

(Daniel Byman New York Post)

More than entertaining spy stories... this book will be a great aid to other Western countries around the world struggling to confront terror.

(Jewish Book World 1900-01-00)

[Pedahzur] offers a brilliant description of Israel's fight against terrorism from 1948 to the present.

(Seth J. Frantzman The Jerusalem Post)

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


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

(James A. Cox Midwest Book Review)

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 Shofar 1900-01-00)

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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare
  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1 edition (February 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231140428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231140423
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,006,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Professor of Government and the Arnold S. Chaplik Professor in Israel and Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Felix Leiter on March 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has written my master thesis on inteligence and counterterrorism in Israel between 1967 and 1979, I'd wish I had this book when i wrote my thesis. It would have made my quest for sources and material so much easier. An excellent source for people interested in intelligence and how intelligence effects counterterrorist strategies.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sugafoot on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book, because in a mere 149 pages we learn the complete history of the Israeli experience fighting terrorism from the pre-state days of 1918 to the present. Author, Ami Pedahzur, is not just another cheerleader who chants that "the IDF/Mossad are the best," instead he shows the Israeli experiences, lessons learned, warts and all. He reminds the reader that terrorism is not a major threat to the national security of the state of Israel. He argues that Israel has relied too heavily and to it's detriment on reprisals which have led to an escalating cycle of terrorism. He writes that instead Israel should expend more resources hardening itself as a target of terrorism. He concludes that Israel should spend more of it's military and intelligence resources protecting itself from real threats to its national security such as Iran and the rise of radical regimes. If I can find fault with the author, it is that he did little to discuss the underlying cause that fueled terrorism against Israel, namely that for nearly fifty years the Palestinians were a state-less people. And that by the time Israel finally deigned to negotiate with the PLO, the conflict had already given birth to even more blood thirsty terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Maybe the greatest lesson to be learned by the US from the Israeli experience is that Hamas besides being a terrorist organization is "first and foremost a social movement that runs a ramified system of charity and relief institutions." And that because of this Hamas was able to win 76 out of 132 seats in the 2006 elections. If the US continues to lose this 'Jihad of the hearts and minds,' as some have called it in impoverished Muslim countries that we may intervene in militarily in the future, even invade.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Keith A. Comess VINE VOICE on January 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Modern governments, by their very nature and complexity, are fragmented into numerous agencies, sub-agencies, divisions, subdivisions, groups and sub-groups. As a result, governmental responses to emergencies tend to be slow and subject to internecine disputes, especially when called upon to deal with high-profile events such as terrorist attacks. Each counter-terrorism (CT) agency or military unit has its own specific jurisdiction and incentive to leverage its power by controlling the flow of information and by demanding or angling for preferential designation of responsibilities. To maintain perspective, be aware that the lack of coordination among CT agencies is an old problem that dates back well before 9/11/2001. The CT issue is further compounded by citizen pressure on politicians and the need to "do something": witness the reactive and ineffectual nature of the US TSA to "shoe" and "underwear" bombing attempts. These and related topics are examined in detail in this book. The success of the "military model" of CT is contrasted with the "defensive" and "reconciliation" models. Israel has chosen the military model and the author, Ami Pedahzur from the University of Texas, contends this approach is a failure.

The book begins, appropriately enough, at the beginning: pre-Israel 1936 in the "Arab Revolt". The evolution of Israel's CT doctrine is then traced chronologically to the near-term present. Abundant examples, some of which have appeared elsewhere (e.g., Black and Morris in "Israel's Secret Wars") comprise the majority of the text. Each "vignette" serves to illustrate the author's theses, which are: 1). "Institutionalization means cumbersome bureaucracy and lengthy response time", 2).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Marois on August 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A really great read that examines the Israeli response to security threats from the PLO, Black October and Hamas. The author emphasizes the lack of communication and aggressive competition between branches of the Israeli security services resulting in unsuccessful operations. The book follows the Israeli policy of assasinatons, clearly maping out the deaths of random Black October and PLO members, and addressing the failed attempt to assasinate Khaled Mishal. Despite the author being Israeli, and the title using "terrorists" I was pleasantly suprised that there is absolutly no bias, and in fact the author is highly critical of Israeli policy. The major flaw of the book is that the final chapter attempts to remedy the terrorist threat by recommending the implemention of a new structural organization of the Israeli intellegience and secret service operations. It would have been nice for the author to instead address the underlying problem, that the Palestinians need a homeland so that they no longer find it necessary to struggle, resist and attack Israeli targets. Instead the author suggests a 'band-aid' solution, which left me shaking my head.

I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.
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