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BIPR | Understanding Territorial Withdrawal: Israeli Occupations and Exits
Understanding Territorial Withdrawal: Israeli Occupations and Exits

April 29, 2024 - 18:30

Rob Geist Pinfold, Durham University; Peace Research Center Prague; Charles University's Herzl Center for Israel Studies

Event Recap

Rob Geist Pinfold, a distinguished scholar from Durham University, delivered a captivating lecture, centered on his book "Understanding Territorial Withdrawal-Israeli Occupation and Exits." Pinfold delved into the intricacies of territorial dynamics, posing fundamental research questions: Why do some occupations come to an end while others persist, and what factors sway an occupier towards withdrawal or entrenchment within a territory? Throughout his lecture, Pinfold exhibited a nuanced approach, examining domestic, international, and bilateral interests as pivotal bargaining levels.

Pinfold commenced by elucidating the legal understanding of "occupation," stressing its temporality and distinction from annexation. Drawing from historical vignettes such as the British occupation of Afghanistan and Burma (today's Myanmar), he underscored enduring occupation dilemmas and the paucity of literature on the subject, cautioning against conflating occupations with other forms of territorial control. A cornerstone of Pinfold's discourse was Israel's Grand Strategy and its intimate relationship with territorial imperatives. He elucidated Israel's vehement rejection of 'Auschwitz Borders' and the strategic significance of territorial depth for ensuring national security. The 1967 expansion, Pinfold argued, catalyzed a seismic shift in Israeli strategy, transforming it from a revisionist to a status quo power, thereby engendering what he termed the "Territorial security dilemma."

Central to Pinfold's exposition were his key findings derived from meticulous analysis. He delineated six commonalities preceding Israeli territorial withdrawals, including policy reassessment, heightened enemy violence, international bargaining, domestic consensus, absence of unilateral withdrawal, and territorial realignment elsewhere. Notably, Pinfold elucidated Israel's selective valuation of West Bank territories, complicating withdrawal negotiations and underscoring the nuanced calculus guiding Israeli decision-making. Transposing his research onto the contemporary canvas of Gaza, Pinfold discerned striking parallels, positing Gaza's emulation of the West Bank model and Israel's recourse to occupation amidst domestic discord. He invoked the prescient insights of former Israeli Defence Minister Shimon Peres prompting reflection on the sustainability of Israel's occupation vis-à-vis Gaza's evolving landscape.

During the ensuing Q&A session, Pinfold fielded a plethora of inquiries, elucidating Israel's recurrent strategic missteps, its reliance on violence justification, and the evolving activism on United States (US) campuses. He expounded on Israel's geopolitical calculus, its predilection for Gulf state alliances—such as with Saudi Arabia and the UAE—over UN directives, and the remote prospect of future US military entanglement. Pinfold advocated for nuanced perspectives beyond categorizations of 'good' or 'bad' actors, contending that Israel's policies inadvertently exacerbate its own insecurity.



Understanding Territorial Withdrawal: Israeli Occupations and Exits

hosted by Professor Mark Gilbert

Rob Geist Pinfold
Durham University; Peace Research Center Prague; Charles University's Herzl Center for Israel Studies

Rob Geist Pinfold is Lecturer in International Peace and Security at Durham University's School of Government and International Affairs. Alongside his role at Durham, he is a Research Fellow at the Peace Research Center Prague and Kings College London's Centre for Grand Strategy and is a Senior Fellow at Charles University's Herzl Center for Israel Studies.

Pinfold is a scholar of international security whose research intersects the study of strategy and territorial conflict. His work has been published in International Studies Perspectives, the Journal of Strategic Studies, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism and Mediterranean Politics. His full-length book manuscript, Understanding Territorial Withdrawal: Israeli Occupations and Exits, was published by Oxford University Press in 2023.
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