The significance of globalization in international security studies: case study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (1988-2002)

Israel-Palestine Conflict


Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be dated as far back as 19th century. National movements among the Jews and the Arabs both fought for the sovereignty of their people. Talks began in late 19th century to set apart Israel from Palestine, but were temporarily stopped due to the British colonialism. The conflict started again in 1948 when the British withdrew from Palestine. The state of Israel was declared in May 1948 following the withdrawal of the British. The Palestinian National Charter stated that Israel was the legitimate ruler of Palestine.[1] The Palestinian Arabs were not contended with the rule of Israel. The Palestinian Arabs deemed the move as being against their will and their natural right in their homeland. This led to conflict and war since then until the 21st century.

From 1988 to 2002, the conflict took a different perspective as globalization played a crucial role in the war between Israel and Palestine. Globalization brought about various effects on the conflict and became a significant part of shaping the conflict in different phases and perspectives. Globalization has led to a greater focus on economic and social processes which affect international relations among nations. Security studies is a field involving the study of competing realist, liberal and constructionist research programs. This is in many ways related to, and affected by globalization.

The purpose of this essay is to determine the significance of globalization in international security and international security studies. The paper will critically discuss the ways in which globalization plays a significant role in international security studies. It will use a case study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which stemmed from the declaration of Israel as a sovereign state, and which took a global perspective from the late 20th century to early 21st century. This will enable international security students and decision makers in international security to make appropriate choices related to international involvements related to the emerging globalization. It will also help nations to align their international relations and security strategies with the changes brought about by globalization. The case study of Israeli-Palestine conflict will serve as an example for other countries to set their strategies appropriately.

Security and Globalization

In order to understand what exactly the roles played by globalization in international security studies are, it is important to understand the meanings of security and globalization; as well as the components of international security studies. Globalization is an ongoing, gradual and dynamic expansion of interaction processes, organizational forms and cooperation dimensions outside the traditional boundaries defined by sovereignty. In the case of Palestinian-Israeli war, Israel being declared a sovereign state in 1948 led the country to operate within its sovereign boundaries.

However, with globalization Israel became an open nation to the outside world through collaborations, social and political relationships, and expansion of interaction processes with other states of the world. In situations of globalization, activities take place in less localized and less insulated manner.[2] Transcontinental and interregional patterns overlap each other.

Unlike inter-dependency, globalization does not interfere with sovereignty of a given nation. In inter-dependence, choices made by one country are often made to accommodate the inter-dependencies between[3] nations. Globalization goes beyond the ever-expanding connections among nations which is common in inter-dependence to include the circulation and interpenetration of people and ideas into international countries (Guehenno, 1999).

Globalization affects both external sovereignty choices and internal sovereignty in terms of the relations between public and private sector within a given country. Globalization works in such a way that production, industry, finance, agriculture and other sectors cause local decisions to result in global repercussions and local lives to be affected by global events.

Globalization in relation to the case of Israel can be compared to the periods before World War I when the Britain (developed world) witnessed high volumes of trade and cross-border movement of capital with its colonies including Israel.[4] This traditional perspective of international relationship led to the dissolution of empires such as Palestine Empire and their traditional forms of governance. Globalization towards the end of 20th century involved nationalism and consolidation of statehood. Activity and decisions of Israel in late 20th century took place in a post-sovereign space where globalization plays both boundary broadening and boundary weakening roles.

Research and literature on globalization has focused more on its economic impacts than its implications on international security. This may be attributed to the fact that international security’s effects are hard to conceptualize compared to economic effects of globalization which may be measured in terms of everyday things such as capital flows across borders, internet use and export and imports of products and services.[5] There are certain international security studies dialogues which indicate the significance of globalization in international security studies.

These dialogues are: idea of selective engagement, democratic engagement, preventive defense and pre-emptive withdrawal (McKnight, 2003). These are the strategies which are utilized by nations in war such as Israel and Palestine. They are the strategies that have come about as a result of competition and globalization in wars. One major implication of globalization on international security is the accessibility of technologies for producing weapons to be used in wars.[6] Sophisticated weapons had been in use since World War I but globalization made the technologies of creating such weapons more accessible to many countries including Palestine and Israeli.

Globalization of technology and information has also led to the formation of extremist or fundamental groups. The ability of these groups to organize trans-nationally, meet virtually and use terrorist tactics has been promoted by the availability of information and technology brought about by globalization. International security studies attempt to focus on these effects of globalization but there is no systematic understanding of these effects. However, using the case study of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is possible to establish a systematic understanding of the effects of globalization on international security.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (1988-2002)

A peaceful approach to resistance was occasioned in 1987 between Palestinians and Israelites. This approach referred to as Intifada was inspired by Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi who succeeded against colonialists and imperialist powers by using non-violent mechanisms. This indicates how globalization influences international security studies through the use of international models. Non-violent methods were perceived to end the destructive power of the Jews.

Unlike in the past when Israel was granted control over Palestine by the British in 1948, intifada declared the independence of Palestine on occupied lands (Coskun, 2004). The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed to hold negotiations with Israel. This consensus approach is one of the effects of globalization as PLO tried to apply non-violent methods which had fruitfully been applied by other nations. However, with negotiations underway fedayeen groups operating in occupied territories opposed the peaceful negotiations. This is also another indication that Israeli-Palestine conflict had at the time taken a global perspective and was affected by globalization to a large extend. In the era of World War I, as indicated earlier, wars were operations of nations against nations. In the case of Israel and Palestine in late 20th century, a section of Palestinian groups broke the norm and opposed the deals made between the states of Palestine and Israel.

In August1988, the Hamas came up with its own covenant and rejected the admissibility of PLO as the leader of Palestinians (Coskun, 2004). As a result, Hamas revived its past destructive tactics against Israel and Zionism. The Covenant of the Hamas (1988) stated, “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious…, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realized”.

Terrorist attacks were widespread inside Israel in early 1990s. The bombings perpetuated by Fedayeen groups inside Israel were interpreted as the incapacity of Palestine leadership to stop the attacks by the fedayeen groups and an indication of the untrustworthiness of Palestinian people. As a result, Israel stressed that what they need is not peace but security; they had been seeking peace with Palestinians instead of security. The result was a consecutive bloody suicide attacks by the Palestinians followed by retaliatory attacks by the Israelis. These attacks and counterattacks occurred mainly in 2001 and 2002.[7] Israel also took a step of constructing a wall in its cities in order to prevent Palestinian attacks. Indeed, this period was a period of serious security problems influenced by globalization.

Effects of globalization on international security

Agency and scope of threat

The concept of threat is a complicated basic concept in international relations. These complications are often inherently evident in terms of agency and scope of a given threat. Agents of war are either states of non-state groups and individuals. Traditionally, conflict in international security was centered in inter-state war e.g. wars between national armed forces (Cohen, 1963). However, globalization has brought about new security terms such as human security and global violence; resulting in fights between irregular sub-state agents such as religious organizations, organized terror groups, cults and ethnic militias. This is was a common practice by the Palestinians as they attacked Israel between 1988 and 2002. Obviously, the war between Israel and Palestine has been a persistent issue for a long period but from 1988 to 2002 it took a new perspective with the wake of new globalization towards the 21st century.[8] Due to this globalization, Palestinian Arabs organized themselves into militia groups including fedayeen groups which attacked Israel by engaging in new strategies such as suicide bombings.

According to Cha (2000), globalization has brought about a situation in which the state only plays a central role in security but is no longer considered as an important referent object or principle embodiment of threat. Therefore, international security providers are only defined in terms of capabilities and resources applied in a post-sovereign space composed of non-state, sub-state, and trans-state arrangements. This is evident from the Israeli-Palestinian case because Palestinian attacks on Israeli were not carried out by the state but by some sections of non-state and sub-state groups such as the Hamas. This is a globalization issue which has influenced internationals security studies as international security scholars attempt to find out the inherent security issues in Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Due to the post-sovereign arrangements, insecurity threats have become difficult to measure, locate, monitor and contain (Freedman, 1998). This was the case as the Israeli tried to hold negotiations with the Palestinian state. Israel was negotiating with the state while non-state Palestinian troops were organizing attacks and causing security threats on Israel. As a result, Israel started to prioritize the security of its people over the peace it was pursuing through negotiations. This led to retaliatory attacks, finally forming part of what seemed to be endless attacks and counter attacks between the two states.

Apart from the agency of security, globalization also widens the scope of security. Copenhagen School suggests that the conception of states about security determines what it means to be secure in the post-cold war era and surpasses national level military security.[9] The scope of security in globalization era encompasses instantaneous communication and transportation, flow of capital and exchanges of information and technology. These activities, especially instantaneous communication and transportation were practiced by the Palestinian attackers who attacked several Israel cities such as Jerusalem based on their instantaneous communication mechanisms.

Due to globalization, identity has become a source of conflict, more so in the case of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although regional and ethnic conflicts are functions of traditional security, identity has also become an issue of globalization. Globalization process is often homogenous. Such homogeneity when combined with the borderlessness concept of globalization results in cultural pluralist response. This is evident in the case study because Palestinians showed a cultural pluralist response to the Israelis’ Zionism identity. As Cha (2000) contends, globalization made Palestinian state to be aware of, but less decisive about the motivations to intervene in such ethnic clashes and conflicts.

Non-physical security

Another effect of globalization on international security is the existence of non-physical security. Traditionally, security entailed the protection of territory and sovereignty. However, globalization has led to an expansion of security concept to include the protection of information and technology assets.[10] The intention of Israel to erect walls in its cities is not only to protect its territory and sovereignty but also to protect its information and technology assets from access by the Palestinians.

Once a government or state seizes an information and technology monopoly, it protects them using all possible means, forming part of its security intentions. Information and technology in the face of globalization enables a state or government to pursue its international relations goals effectively and gives it an added advantage in regard to international security. Governments use technology and information to protect its sovereignty and to strengthen its military engagements. In order to win in war, a country will always keep its secrets and maintain an unpredictable approach and schedule which the enemy cannot predict. However, it the information and technology of such a given state is not secured, the enemy may obtain information regarding the strategies of the country and will be able to strategize better and win the war (Smith, 2005). Therefore, the protection of non-physical assets of the state is a significant part of globalization in terms of international security studies.


Globalization has also encouraged multilateralism in security of nations. Controlling a nation’s resources, pollution and information and technology transfer cannot be carried out through national unilateral means but can be handled effectively through application of the nation’s resources in a multilateral approach. It can also be carried out by encouraging transnational cooperation.[11] For instance, Palestinians sought collaboration and held a multilateral cooperation with other Arab countries to supply resources and help them in maintaining the security of Palestine. On the other hand, Israel cooperated with western countries such as UK and USA.

From this perspective, it is true to assert that globalised security processes are included in a state’s struggle to attract regional coordination and cooperative security. This is what both Israel and Palestine did in their conflict. From this perspective, globalization is considered to play a significant part in solving security problems. As Israel pursues its goals of solving its security problems occasioned by Palestinian attacks, it relies on the globalization aspect of multilateralism. This is the case with its opponent, Palestine. Both are striving for multilateral networks to help them in any way possible as long as it contributes to the objective maintaining security in the country. A country in a globalised society does not emphasize traditional exclusivity and bilateralism but multilateralism and inclusivity to solve its security problems. Select transnational policy coalitions among states, non-state organizations and individuals in order to solve security problems that are specific to each group.

Apart from multilateralism in its definition and scope, reciprocity and international responsibility are also used by warring states in order to maintain a globalised perspective or horizon of security. Putting aside self-serving instrumental motives, states in a globalised perspective hold on to a global responsibility and obligation that compels it to take a positive step or carry out a specific action related to international security (Oberleitner, 2004). For instance, Israel relied on the international responsibility of maintaining peace when it agreed to negotiate with Palestine. This was motivated by other models in the past that have succeeded in maintaining peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms in the colonial era such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.[12] Actions taken by Israeli government in the best interest of the country was balanced with the basic principle of peaceful coexistence which would contribute to universal globalised peace system that underpins the country’s values. That is what is referred to as international responsibility which has come about as a result of globalization.

Bureaucratic Innovation

Globalization has led to more complexities diversifications in security problems. This has necessitated re-orientation of national security structures and elimination of anachronistic bureaucracies by states. Rationalization of wasteful and overlapping national security structures also need to be practiced in the face of the complex security problems brought about by globalization (McKnight, 2003). Renovations and coordination of higher degree need to be initiated in the wake of globalization so as to cub the complexities of international security problems.[13] Such renovations and coordination help in elimination of inefficiencies and lack of integration and cohesiveness in among state, energy, commerce and defence departments of a given country.

Another international security challenge encompassed in the globalization spectrum is that there is a cross fertilization between domestic and foreign laws and policies, especially in regards to security. Changes are often required in national level when the international security policies are in conflict with national policies (Buzan Wæver, 2003). It may not seem clear how or when international security policies will affect the national policies. It all depends on the direction of globalization. States often seek to align their national security policies with international security policies so as to be in a better strategic position in times of international conflicts. This is because a national security policy which is in line with universally applied international policies will attract more backing in terms of multilateralism and cooperation.



From this discussion, it is clear that an international security studies are largely affected by globalization. Globalization and national identity have intersected to produce various significant factors which affect the security of different states. In the case of Israel-Palestine conflict, globalization has brought in new dimensions of security which influenced the way in which both countries approached their conflict. While Palestine upholds its identity and opposes the Zionism of the Jews through attacks, the Israelis tend to hold on to international responsibility by being ready for a peaceful negotiation with the Arab Palestinians. Such issues as increased protection for information and technologies of nations; multilateralism, scope and agency of security among others are the common effects of globalization on international security. Globalization involves the dynamic expansion of interaction processes, organizational forms and cooperation dimensions outside the traditional boundaries defined by sovereignty. This brings about new mechanisms of leadership and focus on security. As a result of globalization, security is no longer an issue of one state against another. Globalization has brought about a situation in which security is provided even be non-state or sub-state agencies.



[1] Coskun, B.B. (2004). Power of Words: Securitization of the “Other” in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

[2] Buzan, B. and Wæver, O. (2003). Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[4] Buzan, B. and Wæver, O. (2003). Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[5] Smith, S. (2005). The Contested Concept of Security. In: Booth, K. (Ed.), Critical Security Studies and World Politics. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner Publishers.

[6] Cohen, B. C. (1963). The Press and Foreign Policy. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

[7] Buzan, B. and Wæver, O. (2003). Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[8] Oberleitner, G. (2004). A Just War against Terror? Peace Review, 16(3), 263-68.

[9] Cha, D.V. (2000). Globalization and the study of international security. Journal of Peace Research, 37(3), 391-403.

[10] Huysmans, J. (2002). Defining Social Constructivism in Security Studies: The Normative Dilemma of Writing Security. Alternatives, 27 (Special Issue), 41-62.

[11] McKnight, D. (2003). A World Hungry for a New Philosophy: Rupert Murdoch and the rise of neo-liberalism. Journalism Studies, 4(3), 347-58.

[12] Awad, M. (1984). Non Violent Resistance: A Strategy for the Occupied Territories. Journal of Palestine Studies, 52, 22-36.

[13] Awad, M. (1984). Non Violent Resistance: A Strategy for the Occupied Territories. Journal of Palestine Studies, 52, 22-36.

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