This paper investigates why Israel has been willing to withdraw from some disputed territories and not others over the course of the Israeli-Arab peace process. In particular, it focuses on how competing narratives of security and national defense versus homeland and national identity shape contemporary Israeli attitudes toward territorial compromise. Utilizing controlled individual-level experiments administered to diverse populations across Israel, it is found that publics are less susceptible to elite rhetorical manipulation than commonly assumed by nationalism and ethnic conflict scholars. Rather than being “agenda setters,” political elites’ rhetorical scope for popular mobilization, particularly on issues of national identity and homeland, is strongly constrained by pre-existing public knowledge. Although politicians frequently seek to stir domestic nationalism over international territorial disputes, the claim that such lands are integral to national defense or the historic national homeland have only gained traction where this is already believed to be the case. Only by understanding these sources of public opposition to territorial compromise, it is argued, will long-term conflict resolution be possible.

Ariel Zellman

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The Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish people studies the entire range of topics relevant to the identity of Israel as a Jewish state and to expressions of that identity. Within that framework, the Center focuses on two major clusters of interest.

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The Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People, Department of Political Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900 Israel