Settler and indirect rule: Youssef Mnali, Settling Palestine : logics of Israeli (in)direct governance of the occupied west bank since 1967, PhD dissertation, European University Institute, 2022


Abstract: Settling Palestine: The logics of Israeli (In)direct governance of the West Bank since 1967 In June 1967, after Israel’s dramatic victory in the Six-Day War, the Israeli army occupied the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan Heights. With the exception of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the other territories were not annexed. Instead, they remained under military occupation and were slowly settled by diverse and heterogeneous groups of Jewish Israeli citizens. The dissertation argues that there is a profound difference between capturing territory in war and occupying it in peacetime. By necessity and design, Israel’s military occupation is built on indirect governance, with Jewish settlers serving as intermediary agents of the Israeli state. The longstanding Israeli occupation has reinforced the image of Israel as a strong state capable of enforcing its authority over the territory under its control. The dissertation reveals how many Israeli governments have been plagued by operational, reputational, and institutional capacity deficits that have hindered their attempts to govern the new territories effectively and to reign in Palestinian resistance directly with the Israeli army and other state agencies. To overcome these deficits, Israeli governments have mobilized different types of settlers who had the partial or complete capacity required by the state of Israel. In return, the state has become increasingly dependent on the administrative, logistic and security services provided by settlers on the ground and on the recruits they provide for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at a time when Israel was experiencing a decline in the numbers of non-settler Israeli citizens joining the military and when the increasing integration of the Palestinian population and territories into Israel’s de facto and judicial sovereignty was expanding its responsibility in the eyes of the world and hindered the use of lethal violence by the army. State dependence increased the bargaining position of the settlers and gave them increasing influence in Israeli politics. These changes destabilized the initial indirect governance arrangement. Settlers constantly adapted these arrangements in order to twist them in their favour. The central question posed by the dissertation is: Why and how does the Israeli state mobilise settlers? And how have the reactions of settlers shaped state and society in Israel? The answer is provided by seven chapters which reconstruct state-settler interactions through selected episodes of Israeli occupation in the period 1967–2020. 6 The thesis is structured into seven chapters. The first chapter introduces the research question and sketches the main argument. Chapter two explains case selection and fieldwork methodology. Chapter three provides a broad ranging review of the theoretical and empirical literature. Chapter four presents a historical overview of the early decades of the occupation. It analyses the politics of the settlements, the indirect governance arrangements that emerged between the government and the religious Zionist sector, the implicit contract underlying these arrangements in terms of deficits in government capacity and settler competences, as well as the convergence and divergence of interests. Chapter five analyses the establishment of ‘illegal’ outposts in the 1990s and their subsequent transformation into permanent settlements. After the Oslo Accords’ Memorandum on new settlements, the Israeli authorities have rebalanced their emphasis away from establishing new settlements through ‘delegation’ towards establishing ‘illegal outposts’ with their subsequent silent ‘conversion’ into ‘legal’ settlements. The last empirical chapter 6 examines the indirect governance of violence. It analyses the arrangements to deal with indirect violence adopted by the Israeli government and the national-religious sector and the changes these arrangements underwent over time. Issues include soldiers’ refusal to follow orders in evacuating settlers on the grounds of their religious convictions and settler violence targeting the Israeli army, especially in the aftermath of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Chapter seven concludes with a short summary of the argument and possible extensions. The thesis builds on a theory-guided process-tracing approach (TGPT). It is based on over fifty in-depth interviews with current and former IDF officers, state officials in the Civil Military Administration, soldiers, politicians, diplomats and settlement residents and their representatives. The thesis engages with theories of settler colonialism, indirect governance, religious radicalism, and military sociology. It constitutes an innovative study of the Israeli settler movement and its historical evolution from the perspective of indirect governance and is one of a few studies focusing on radical right social movements in a non-Western political context.

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