When Deterrence Backfires: House Demolitions, Palestinian Radicalization, and Israeli Fatalities

Michael Freedman*, Esteban F. Klor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conflict points around the world involve government forces fighting terrorist groups. In this type of warfare, there is a danger that counterterrorist efforts may backfire, providing ammunition for additional cycles of violence. We study this issue focusing on selective and indiscriminate house demolitions employed by Israel during the Second Intifada. We exploit the temporal and spatial variation of this policy to assess its impact on Palestinians’ political views. We find that the civilian population does not react to punitive house demolitions, a selective form of counterterrorism. On the contrary, Palestinians are more likely to adopt more radical political opinions in response to precautionary house demolitions, an indiscriminate form of counterterrorism. We also show that political radicalization induced by indiscriminate counterterrorism leads to an increase in future terror attacks. Overall, our analysis provides explicit empirical support to the mechanism behind the positive correlation between indiscriminate counterterrorism and future levels of violence.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Eli Berman and Chagai Weiss for valuable discussions and suggestions. We also thank participants at numerous conferences and seminars for helpful comments and feedback. EK thanks the Minerva Research Institute through the Office of Naval Research for financial support. Replication materials for the paper are available at https://osf.io/drcxj/

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by Office of Naval Research (Minerva Research Institute).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • counterterrorism
  • house demolitions
  • political radicalization


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